Senate Passes Hoeven Bill to Provide FEMA Flexibility on Levee Construction

Legislation Provides for More Commonsense, Cost-Effective Flood Protection in ND Communities

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced Senate passage of his bill that provides the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with greater flexibility to build permanent levees on land bought out under its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). This will help communities like Minot, Fargo and Red River Valley, Devils Lake, Valley City, Cooperstown and other areas throughout the state to better protect against future flooding. 

Hoeven’s legislation establishes a pilot project in the state to allow permanent levees to be constructed on land that FEMA has bought out due to flooding. Current FEMA rules prohibit the building of structures, including levees, on land which HMGP funds have been used to purchase homes or businesses. This ban complicates permanent flood protection planning and forces communities to build and remove levees on bought-out lands each time floodwaters rise. 

            “This legislation is a commonsense solution that will help provide permanent flood protection for people and property and better stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” said Hoeven. “It allows communities across our state to construct permanent levees where they need to in order to provide permanent flood protection, rather than constructing and removing temporary levees. This results in better protection while saving taxpayer dollars. 

            “I appreciate Senator Conrad cosponsoring the legislation and his work to help pass the bill. This legislation now goes to the House where I hope it can receive expedited passage due to the bipartisan support it has received from the Senate. We are already working with Congressman Berg on it.”            

The legislation provides Minot-area leaders greater latitude as they work to design permanent flood protections following last year’s flood.  Hoeven’s bill allows local and state leaders to plan to build permanent levees on lands that FEMA may buy out using HMGP funds. The FEMA rule prohibiting permanent structures makes it difficult for Minot to use its share of HMGP funding. The State of North Dakota has estimated it will receive more than $80 million in HMGP funds, with the majority going to Minot where it is needed for buyouts. 

Hoeven began working on the bill after meeting early last year with officials in Fargo and the surrounding Red River Valley.  FEMA has bought out previously flooded properties in the area, and each year that water rises, local officials must build and remove levees on these lands. Constructing permanent levees will save the local, state and federal government money and ensure better flood protection for these communities. 

Hoeven introduced a draft of the legislation, the FEMA Common Sense and Cost Effectiveness Act, which would provide FEMA the flexibility to construct levees on bought-out lands across the nation. The bill as passed establishes the program initially in North Dakota.