Obama’s budget lacks F-M diversion fundsFARGO – For the first time in four years, President Barack Obama’s annual budget doesn’t provide funding for the Fargo-Moorhead diversion project, which the chairman of the Diversion Authority said may slow the project but won’t stop it.
By: Mike Nowatzki, Forum News Service
FARGO – For the first time in four years, President Barack Obama’s annual budget doesn’t provide funding for the Fargo-Moorhead diversion project, which the chairman of the Diversion Authority said may slow the project but won’t stop it.
The president has earmarked a total of $22.5 million in the past three years, including $5 million last year, for design and environmental impact analysis of the proposed $1.8 billion diversion flood channel around the metro area. The Diversion Authority has matched the federal contribution with local funds, including $29 million last year.
But Obama’s 2014 budget released today sets nothing aside for the diversion and slashes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ civil works program by 5.5 percent from 2012.
Diversion Authority chairman Darrell Vanyo said if the project were to receive federal funding this year, the corps would likely have to allocate the money from its budget. He said he spoke this morning to corps officials, who he described as “being very guarded” about that possibility.
“I’m sure that somehow the corps will come up with something. It’s certainly going to slow that part of it down if they don’t appropriate enough funds,” he said.
Congress also could still appropriate money for the project, Vanyo said. North Dakota’s congressional delegation, along with Minnesota’s two senators and Rep. Collin Peterson, sent the president a letter in February that requested diversion funding but didn’t specify an amount, Vanyo said.
If the federal contribution is less than $5 million, “then it’s left up to us to decide to continue in some fashion with some of the things that obviously are being talked about right now, and that’s continued levee work and hopefully some mitigation to the south,” Vanyo said.
The project has been criticized for the impact it will have south of Fargo, where the diversion’s staging area would hold back floodwater when the diversion is used.
“It doesn’t stop us,” Vanyo said of the lack of funding in Obama’s budget. “We just need to regroup and figure out what we’re going to do.”
Last month, the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee passed the 2013 Water Resources Development Act, which includes support for the diversion. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., called it a “big step” in authorizing the project.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528.