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Drayton’s FEMA fight may finally be coming to an end

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DRAYTON, ND (WDAZ-TV) - It's literally taking an act of Congress, but years of fighting FEMA may finally be coming to an end.

People in Drayton say the levee system has saved their city from floodwaters. Problem is, it's illegal. That's what Congress could soon change.

Mary Byzewski will someday tell her grandson about that historic flood 20 years ago.

Byzewski: "I was here in ‘97, sandbagging, you know and helping all that. And it was a pretty stressful time."

And something she'll never forget. City leaders won't either.

Randy Schuster, city council member: "Well right now in ‘97 the water would've been about a foot deep up in my yard, up into here. So all this would've been water, which would be catastrophic."

Drayton’s dikes were built temporarily to protect the town from a rising Red River. Residents wanted them to become permanent, but since they were built on federal land, FEMA has said for years now they must come down. Something folks here have fought.

Schuster: "If we had to take them down and put up temporary ones every flood, it'd be between $150,000 to $250,000 every year."

After two recent extensions to buy time, Senator John Hoeven attached to the budget before congress a resolution to allow permanent levees on federal land.

Neighbors on East Harper Avenue say they'll be crossing their fingers until Thursday's vote.

Schuster: "We don't ever want to go through one of them again. So that's why we need what we can have for permanent flood protection."

Byzewski: "When you're driving around, it kind of gives you a little comfort to see that dike there."