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Published February 04, 2014, 11:39 AM

Federal money uncertain for North Dakota's water needs

North Dakota legislators heard updates on regional water projects, including their urgency and prospects for federal funding at a meeting in Grand Forks on Monday.

By: John Hageman, Grand Forks Herald

North Dakota legislators heard updates on regional water projects, including their urgency and prospects for federal funding at a meeting in Grand Forks on Monday.

The lawmakers were in Grand Forks for a meeting of the Water Topics Overview Committee at the Alerus Center.

The projects they were briefed on included a proposed flood diversion project in Grafton. The town’s mayor, Chris West, told the committee that they are moving forward without the federal government’s financial assistance.

“We cannot afford to wait any longer,” he told the Water Topics Overview Committee Monday at the Alerus Center.

West said the need for permanent flood protection in Grafton has become more apparent recently because of skyrocketing flood insurance payments for some homeowners there. A federal law change in 2012 required the Federal Emergency Management Agency to accurately assess risk when determining flood insurance rates.

A bill delaying those large insurance hikes passed the Senate last week, but awaits action in the House.

West said there have been some changes at the federal level over the years that make a project like theirs less of a priority. He said if they don’t have federal funds, the project would likely have to be paid for by the state and local government.

Grand Forks

City and business leaders from Grand Forks discussed several water-related projects in town, including a new water treatment plant and the Red River Water Supply Project, which would bring Missouri River water to supplement supplies here in times of drought.

Without federal assistance on that project, the price tag would increase from $660 million to $781 million, according to a presentation given by Grand Forks City Council member Ken Vein. Under the $660 million proposal, local governments, the state and the federal government would split the cost three ways.

State and local government officials have been moving ahead with the project, acknowledging the possibility that, after some delay, federal support may not arrive.

Vein said the project is “critical” for water supply in the Red River Valley.

“We all know how quickly a drought can strike,” he said.

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