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Kyle Potter, Published September 11 2013

House water resources act includes authorization for F-M diversion

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House is starting to catch up to the Senate in handling the Fargo-Moorhead diversion and other water infrastructure projects.

House lawmakers on Wednesday unveiled their version of the Water Resources Development Act, a bulk package that would authorize dozens of water infrastructure projects. Among them is the diversion, the proposed 36-mile channel that would divert floodwaters away from the metro area during extreme floods.

Diversion Authority Chairman Darrell Vanyo welcomed the news of the project’s inclusion, but said he wasn’t surprised.

The bill, like its counterpart in the Senate, would not appropriate any funds for construction. The diversion has an estimated price tag of $1.8 billion, including about $810 million from the federal government.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he expects a full vote on the House floor sometime in October.

The Senate passed its version of the Water Resources Development Act on May 15.

The House’s bill is officially called the Water Reform and Resources Development Act. Rep. Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, stressed the reforms in the bill, which he said will streamline future U.S. Army Corps of Engineers studies and reduce a backlog of unfunded and stagnant projects.

The Forum previously reported on the corps’ backlog – roughly $60 billion of unfunded projects, according to a Congressional Budget Office report – which could hinder diversion leaders’ chances of receiving federal funding for the flood protection project.

“We are de-authorizing as much or more than we’re authorizing, which is a first,” Shuster said during a news conference introducing the bill.

In total, the House bill authorizes about $10 billion in new projects. It de-authorizes about $12 billion worth.

“In my view, that can only help,” as the diversion moves to seek federal money, Cramer said.

The bill also includes a mechanism to automatically de-authorize projects that don’t move forward within seven years of authorization.

Corps project manager Aaron Snyder said none of the different features in the House bill should create problems for the diversion.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Kyle Potter at (701) 241-5502