Hoeven: Congress Passes WRRDA, Includes Fargo-Moorhead Flood Protection, Hoeven Language Blocking Fees for Missouri River Water

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that Congress has passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). The measure includes two top priorities for North Dakota that Hoeven worked to include: authorization for permanent flood protection for Fargo-Moorhead and legislation Hoeven authored blocking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from charging residents, tribes, farmers, ranchers and businesses for Missouri River reservoir water. The measure passed the Senate 91 to 7 and now goes to the president’s desk.

Permanent Flood Protection for Fargo-Moorhead and the Red River Valley

“We worked very hard to include these two important priorities for North Dakota in the new water resources development bill, addressing issues in both the east and the west of our state,” Hoeven said. “Congress’s authorization this week for the Fargo-Moorhead diversion was critical because it enables us to now pursue federal construction funding to get the project started. The authorization can also trigger state and local funding for the project because that support was contingent on authorization and a federal appropriation. Now that we have authorization, we also need to make sure the Army Corps of Engineers takes a comprehensive approach to floods in the Red River Valley by addressing concerns regarding the upstream staging area.”

Hoeven advocates a comprehensive approach to flood protection in the Red River Valley. That includes:

• Permanent flood protection for Fargo-Moorhead.

• Upstream flood protection is necessary. We need to continue to make sure upstream concerns are addressed. Hoeven is working to get the Red River Basin designated a Critical Conservation Area, making it eligible for federal flood protection funding. As a member of the farm bill conference committee, Hoeven worked to include support 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. We are working to secure more FEMA flood protection funding and anticipate receiving an additional $18 million within the next few weeks, bringing total FEMA flood protection funding for dikes and levees to $35 million just since the last flood.

• Affordable flood insurance premiums for homes and businesses. Hoeven worked to pass the Affordable Flood Insurance Act, which prevents the Federal Emergency Management Agency from steeply raising rates. The measure also includes Hoeven’s basement exception, which enabled homeowners to get credit for flood-proofed basements when determining flood insurance rates.

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; North Dakota and local governments will assume the balance, $450 million each.

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.

Protecting Access to the Missouri River Reservoirs

The final version of WRRDA also includes an amendment authored by Hoeven that bars the Army Corps of Engineers from charging an unprecedented fee for using water from the Missouri River reservoirs. Hoeven’s legislation, 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.

“Blocking the Corps from charging a fee for water from the Missouri River reservoirs should now give North Dakotans confidence that they will have access to river water for their homes, farms, ranches and businesses,” Hoeven said. “We wrote our legislation to make 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.”