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U.S. Senate authorizes F-M Diversion project

WASHINGTON – The F-M Diversion project has been fully authorized by both chambers of Congress.

The U.S. Senate passed Thursday afternoon the Water Resources Reform Development Act, a package of nationwide water infrastructure projects including the proposed $1.8 billion flood channel around Fargo-Moorhead.

The bill awaits President Barack Obama’s signature, and local officials said they expect him to sign it.

“People kind of pooh-pooh that authorization doesn’t mean much,” said Cass County Administrator Keith Berndt, “but the reality is, once it’s authorized and signed into law, then that’s the law of the land saying that the federal government supports an F-M Diversion project, so we think that’s a huge step.”

Both chambers of Congress overwhelmingly passed the bill – the Senate by a vote of 91-7 on Thursday and the House with a 412-4 vote on Tuesday.

North Dakota Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven and Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken all voted for the bill, as did North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer and Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson.

Congressional authorization does not guarantee any federal dollars for the project but merely a spot in line to seek federal funding. The project is asking the federal government to cover more than $800 million of construction costs.

State money from North Dakota and Minnesota and local sales tax is expected to cover the rest of the project’s cost.

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