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Federal spending bill would keep Drayton dikes in place

A view of the Red River as it winds through Drayton on Tuesday. Photo by Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

DRAYTON, N.D.—A federal budget deal could allow Drayton to keep dikes on land that otherwise would have prohibited the earthen structures.

The funding agreement for fiscal year 2017 has language that will allow the dikes to be built on land acquired through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, according to a news release from the office of Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. The levees, some of which have been up since the 1997 flood, have protected the city through several flood years, according to residents who fought the removal of the temporary dikes. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency ordered the city to remove dikes on 16 parcels of land sold to the city through the federal agency's flood mitigation program, saying the dikes served as "anecdotal protection" and could present public safety concerns since they weren't examined by the proper entities.

With few exceptions, permanent structures are not allowed on the hazard mitigation land.

The city of Drayton drafted a correction plan to remove the dikes by Oct. 12, a deadline set by FEMA. After seeing coverage on the issue from the Herald, Hoeven asked FEMA to grant two extensions for the dikes to be taken down while working on legislation to allow the levees to remain permanently. The city has until May 12 to take the dike down.

But that deadline will be irrelevant if Congress and President Donald Trump approve the federal funding agreement that includes language allowing levees if the "construction constitutes part of a flood control project, is constructed of naturally occurring materials and conforms to other criteria as established by FEMA policy." That should cover the Drayton dikes.

Hoeven said it was important to approve the dikes permanently, especially since Drayton faced flooding this year.

"Drayton needs the certainty that their flood protection will remain in place," Hoeven said in a statement Tuesday. "This levee is vital to the community's flood control efforts. That's why I worked to secure this provision, allowing the city to maintain the levee permanently and providing peace of mind for local residents."

Hoeven said he expects the language for the dikes to be approved, and though the budget only lasts through September, the dike language is permanent, he said.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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