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By Charly Haley, Published April 20 2013

Moorhead, Clay leaders update Sen. Franken on flood fight

MOORHEAD – Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., visited here Saturday to get an update on Moorhead and Clay County flood-fighting efforts.

Franken toured areas considered flood hot spots after meeting separately with county and city leaders at the Clay County Courthouse and Moorhead City Hall.

Weather service forecasters on Wednesday predicted a crest on the Red River of between 38 and 41 feet. The chance for a record crest in Fargo-Moorhead is 40 percent, up from a 15 percent chance predicted in late March, in what will be the latest spring flood on record.

Franken said he is impressed with how well-prepared city and county leaders are to fight flooding.

“We sort of discussed with the city really how down to a science it’s now gotten in terms of the planning,” he said.

“The only good thing about this happening every year is that you get very good at it. They’re very good at this,” Franken said.

The senator said this year’s flood-fighting effort seemed “more sophisticated,” with the LiDAR (light detecting and ranging) technology that uses lasers to map elevation every 6 inches. In 2009, cooperating agencies finished mapping all 53,000 square miles of the Red River Basin in the U.S. with LiDAR.

Franken said the strong effort by Moorhead and Clay County helps him fight for federal funding.

He said a water resources development act bill is on the U.S. Senate docket, and hopes the bill will be passed in the Senate in May.

Funding from the bill would not be specific to the Red River Valley, but could help with water projects throughout Minnesota, including the proposed Fargo-Moorhead diversion here, Franken said.

“When we’re talking about the WRDA bill, we’re really talking about the diversion,” he said. “That would gain authorization. It’s part of the process of this going forward.”

He noted that if the bill passes in the Senate, it would still need to go through the House and be appropriated by the Senate and House.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701) 235-7311