Hoeven: Committee Reaches Deal on WRDA Bill, Includes Authorization for Fargo-Moorhead Flood Protection

Bill Also Includes Hoeven Language Blocking Fees for Missouri River Water

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the U.S. Senate-House joint conference committee has come to an agreement on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), and the measure includes two top priorities for North Dakota: authorization for permanent flood protection in the Red River Valley and legislation Hoeven authored barring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from charging residents and businesses for Missouri River reservoir water.

Hoeven said the final version of the bill is currently being circulated for committee members’ signatures, and the process should be completed next week.

“We worked very hard to include these two important priorities for North Dakota in the new water resources development bill, and now the conferees appear to have reached an agreement,” Hoeven said. “With authorization for permanent flood control in the Red River Valley we take a big step toward the construction phase of the project, and with inclusion of our States’ Water Rights Act, we block an unfair proposal by the Corps to charge a fee for access to water from Missouri River reservoirs.”

Permanent Flood Protection for the Red River Valley

The compromise WRDA bill includes authorization for the construction of the Fargo-Moorhead flood protection project, which authorizes funding for it, Hoeven said. Because of the scale and expense of the plan, federal funding will need to be appropriated each year on an ongoing basis to cover the cost, which will be shared by the local, state and federal government.

The total cost of the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion project is roughly $1.8 billion, with 45 percent, or $800 million, assumed by the federal government. The nonfederal share will be split three ways: Minnesota will assume $100 million, and the state of North Dakota and local government will assume the balance, $450 million each.

“Permanent flood protection for Fargo-Moorhead will protect a quarter of a million people in both North Dakota and Minnesota and be one of the largest and most important projects our state has ever undertaken,” Hoeven said. “We need to maintain our momentum and put the cost and hardship of annual flood fights behind us.”

Protecting Access to the Missouri River Reservoirs

The compromise WRDA bill also includes an amendment authored by Senator Hoeven that bars the Army Corps of Engineers from charging an unprecedented fee for using water from the Missouri River reservoirs. The States’ Water Rights Act fixes in law that charging fees for “surplus water” would violate a state’s right to the waters that naturally flow through its boundaries as recognized by the federal government.

“North Dakota has fought long and hard to preserve its legitimate right of our people to use the Missouri River to support their homes, farms, ranches and businesses,” Hoeven said. “Our legislation makes clear that there is no federal authority to charge fees for water that historically, legally and ethically belongs to the citizens and tribes of North Dakota.”