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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published April 29 2010

Senate panel approves flood money

ST. PAUL – Local governments affected by this spring’s Minnesota and Red River floods will not need to pay flood-fighting and recovery costs under a bill zipping through the Legislature.

The Minnesota Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday gave unanimous approval to spend $3.7 million of state funds – securing three times that much federal money – to repay local governments for things such as sandbags, levee building, road repairs, fixing sewage systems, debris removal, hiring private businesses and public employees’ overtime pay. The bill heads to the full Senate.

A House committee is to take up the measure next week, and no opposition is expected.

The money is only for public property damage, and will not be available to home, business or farm owners.

Kris Eide, Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department director, said local governments should be fully reimbursed for their expenses.

Eide said the worst damage appears to be to roads in Marshall County, where water sat on the flat surfaces for a long time and wave action caused damage.

Damage reports have come from about two dozen counties, with the most expenses in the Red River Valley. Nearly $9 million public property damage, of the nearly $15.3 million in Minnesota, had been caused by the Red River.

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said last year’s more extensive flooding was mostly confined to the Red River Valley and cost

$68 million in public money.

Senate Finance Chairman Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, said most of the

$3.7 million is coming from an account that lawmakers hoped to build up to make it easier to pay bills.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.