Hoeven Asks for FEMA Rule Change to Allow Permanent Levees on Bought-Out Land, Will Introduce Legislation to Modify Current Policy

Senator Also Asks for Push on Presidential Disaster Declaration as River Crest Nears

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. John Hoeven in a meeting today asked Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate to work with him to change a current FEMA rule that disallows the construction of permanent levees on flooded lands bought out by the agency. Because FEMA says it may not be able to alter the rule administratively, Hoeven said he will offer legislation in the U.S. Senate that would give FEMA the statutory authority to approve the construction of permanent dikes under circumstances where it would be more cost effective and sensible to do so. 

“We can better protect lives and property in the Red River Valley, and at the same time save taxpayer dollars by allowing for the kind of common-sense solution permanent diking would provide,” Hoeven said.  “Although the existing rule may make sense in some instances, but in other cases, it makes no sense to build temporary dikes and tear them down every year in places like Fargo, where a flat topography makes permanent dikes a sensible solution to chronic flooding. FEMA needs the flexibility to do what is both cost-effective and sensible to protect people, and property.” 

The FEMA rule prohibits the building of structures and development in areas that are likely to flood, in which case natural drainage and a greenway makes sense to avoid further emergency measures. In the case of Cass County, the City of Fargo and other municipalities along the Red River where homes are already at risk, permanent diking is a less expensive alternative to temporary annual mitigation. 

During the meeting, Hoeven also asked Fugate to expedite the Presidential Disaster Declaration the state requested in February in response to the likelihood of imminent flooding. The latest National Weather Service forecast expects the Red River to reach 39 feet by next Monday morning. The Administrator said he would again contact the White House and follow up with the Senator. 

“Presidential support is vital as the Red River nears its crest, which could come as early as next week,” Hoeven said. “Communities at risk need to know they have the support of the Administration as they work literally day and night to prepare for this year’s flood fight.” 

Throughout the early months of this year, the Senator also worked with Fugate to ensure that the state-federal-local plan initiated to address possible flooding in the Red River Valley, the Devils Lake region and other communities is in place, and that the agency can provide the resources the communities need for a successful flood fight. In January, he worked with Fugate to secure $5.8 million of unobligated FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant funding to help the City of Minnewaukan relocate homes and businesses out of the flood plain. 

Hoeven has also been working with other state agencies to coordinate federal resources with state and local efforts to mount an effective flood response this spring. He is working closely with the state agencies, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and FEMA to coordinate flood preparation efforts across North Dakota. 

“As communities across North Dakota work toward preparations for flooding this year, it is essential that we maintain our vigilance,” Hoeven said.

Hoeven Fugate