Hoeven: USDA Designates Prairie Grasslands, Including Red River Valley, A Critical Conservation Area

New USDA Conservation Program to Benefit Red River Valley, Provide Flood Protection

BISMARCK, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated the Prairie Grasslands, which includes the Red River Valley, a critical conservation area under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Hoeven worked as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and conferee on the 2014 farm bill conference committee to create the RCPP program. The designation will make resources available for upstream flood protection efforts in the Red River Valley. The RCPP combines four existing programs into one streamlined, efficient program that fosters public-private partnerships.

Recognizing the importance of flood protection in the Red River Valley, the USDA website notes that the “region also encompasses the Red River Basin of the North and the Ogallala Aquifer—areas that are facing critical conservation needs on working lands from frequent flooding.”

“The Regional Conservation Partnership program is one part of a comprehensive plan to protect the Red River Valley,” Hoeven said. “It gives us a tool to form effective partnerships between federal, local and private entities that will help us meet local conservation and flood protection objectives. These flood protection projects will address local flooding issues in our small and rural communities around the Red River Basin, and each one of these projects can provide additional flood protection benefits downstream all the way to Canada. Through this classification, we will now have more resources available to ensure that this important region of our state is properly protected.”

The Critical Conservation Area designation will bring benefits to the Red River by strategically conserving water that would otherwise increase the flood threat in Fargo-Moorhead, Grand Forks and other communities along the red river.

In March, Hoeven and members of the North Dakota and Minnesota delegations sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to request the department’s support for naming the Red River of the North Watershed Basin as a Critical Conservation Area (CCA) under RCPP. The letter noted that the Red River Valley has some of the country’s most productive farmland, but has been impacted by flooding since the basin was settled. The letter noted that RCPP can address a number of conservation efforts impacting the Red River Valley, including addressing flood reduction, creating permanent and seasonal wetlands and water storage, benefiting wildlife habitat and retraining water on agricultural lands.

The RCPP will award funds on a competitive basis for conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments are considered eligible partners to join with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest in conservation programs.

The designation is part of a comprehensive flood protection plan for the Red River Valley that Hoeven has advanced. They include:

• Permanent flood protection for Fargo-Moorhead. To date we have secured $35 million for project engineering and design (PED). Now funding can go to project construction.

• Upstream flood protection is necessary. We need to continue to make sure upstream concerns are addressed through programs like the RCPP. As a member of the farm bill conference committee, Hoeven worked to include $500 million in funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which provides funding for rural water management and flood protection.

• Dikes, levees and other flood protection infrastructure within the Fargo-Moorhead area.

• Affordable flood insurance premiums for homes and businesses.