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Associated Press, Published February 24 2011

Dayton says early planning is key to flood prep

SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn. – Early planning will be the key to successfully combatting the widespread flooding Minnesota expects this spring, Gov. Mark Dayton and other state officials said Wednesday at a meeting of local authorities already gearing up for the fight.

Dayton also said it’s too soon to know how last weekend’s heavy snow will affect the already high flood threat.

“It’s very difficult to know exactly where and exactly what the timing is going to be, and Mother Nature has the upper hand,” he said, adding that it depends on how much more snow falls and when and how fast it melts.

Dayton led the meeting of more than 100 municipal, law enforcement and other emergency officials at the Waterous Company, which makes pumps and other firefighting equipment. The company sits within sight of a permanent levee built after record flooding along the Mississippi River in 1965 devastated South St. Paul’s low-lying industrial area. The city of 20,000 people is one of many communities statewide that don’t usually experience much flooding but could this spring.

“For every dollar we spend on mitigation, there are four dollars saved in damage,” state Emergency Management Director Kris Eide told the officials, adding that each dollar they spend on limiting damage actually saves $10 in total costs.

Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman urged them to recommend that residents consider buying flood insurance soon because there’s a 30-day waiting period and standard homeowners’ policies don’t cover flood damage.

The meeting was one of several that Dayton, Eide and other state officials are having in communities across the state as they get a head start on flood preparations. Earlier meetings in Moorhead and Crookston focused on the Red River and its tributaries; a similar meeting Wednesday in Stillwater highlighted the St. Croix River.

Dayton also used the meeting in South St. Paul to pitch his $1 billion public works bill. The Democrat has proposed that the GOP-controlled Legislature fill in about $470 million worth of the projects, and he said his approach gives local governments opportunities to address their flood control needs. Republicans have been cool to the bonding bill so far, saying the budget deficit and private sector jobs should be higher priorities.

The governor’s appeal provided an opening afterward for South St. Paul officials to seek Dayton’s support for $2 million they say they need to fix a significant weakness in their defenses – an aging pumping station that would help keep floodwaters out of the industrial area. The money is not among the $531 million worth of projects Dayton outlined late last month, but City Engineer John Sachi and City Administrator Stephen King told Dayton how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently declared the station unacceptable.

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