OUR OPINION: Farm bill also helps fight floods
In Fargo-Moorhead, the flood-prevention story continues. The cities came a giant step closer to permanent flood protection Tuesday when the Army Corps of Engineers signed off on the proposed flood diversion and sent the project to Congress. But a...
In Fargo-Moorhead, the flood-prevention story continues.
The cities came a giant step closer to permanent flood protection Tuesday when the Army Corps of Engineers signed off on the proposed flood diversion and sent the project to Congress.
But as Grand Forks and East Grand Forks should remember, the flood-prevention story continues here, too. Because just as the diversion won't be the last word for flood protection in Fargo-Moorhead, neither are the dikes and Greenway the last work in the Grand Cities.
In fact, another big project also is in the works. And it's one that would help protect not only Fargo-Moorhead, but also Grand Forks-East Grand Forks and every other community in the Red River Valley.
That would be the plan by Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., to store water in retention basins around the valley, thereby holding back enough water to lower a flood of 1997's size in Grand Forks by two feet.
And just as the diversion plan is advancing -- sometimes steadily, sometimes in fits and starts -- so, too, is the retention plan.
The next farm bill will play a crucial role, because that's where Peterson hopes a lot of the money will come from.
Valley residents should remember that and take special note of candidates' farm-bill views in the run-up to the November election.
As Tuesday's editorial noted, the farm bill is about lots more than farming. It's also about wildlife: The Conservation Reserve Program has dramatically improved wildlife habitat in North Dakota, Minnesota and elsewhere, but its status in the next farm bill is uncertain.
And the farm bill also is about flood protection.
"The hunt is on to find enough water storage sites in the Red River Valley in southeastern North Dakota to temporarily hold the equivalent of a lake covering 1 million acres at a depth of 1 foot," Patrick Springer of Forum Communications reported in January.
"If successful over time, the effort would reduce the flood peak along the Red River by 20 percent. ...
"A lot will be determined by the next farm bill." And that's where Peterson comes in as the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee.
Peterson "says he thinks $238 million will be available for five eligible regional water projects, including the Red River Valley.
"The clock is running. The next federal budget year begins Oct. 1, so Peterson urged the Red River Valley Retention Authority to have projects in the pipeline to take advantage of the expected funding opportunity. Matching funds also must be found.
"'My message to you is to get on the ball here,' Peterson says. 'You need to get projects ready to go. It's there for the taking if you're ready to go.'"
The diversion is vital for the valley's long-term economic health. So is Peterson's retention-basin project -- a project that would dramatically boost Grand Forks and East Grand Forks' already-strong level of flood protection.
Residents should keep that in mind and make sure the multi-faceted farm bill is a big part of the political discussion in the region.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald