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Erik Burgess, Published January 30 2014

Snubbed by Dayton, Moorhead waits for final flood project dollars from Legislature

MOORHEAD – When Gov. Mark Dayton revealed his nearly $1 billion bonding bill proposal earlier this month, it didn’t include money for flood mitigation in Moorhead.

That came as a surprise to some area officials who were expecting to finish up flood protection projects this year. Moorhead needs $7.2 million to button up its in-town levees to 42.5 feet and to fortify storm water systems.

“If you have 99 percent of a project done, that doesn’t help. You need to have 100 percent of it done,” said Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley.

Moorhead already has spent an estimated $87 million on flood protection, with about $65.5 million of that coming from the state and the rest being local dollars, said City Engineer Bob Zimmerman.

Zimmerman said the city now must wait for the Legislature to begin discussing its version of the bonding bill.

“Dayton’s proposal had no flood mitigation funding statewide,” he said. “I think we’re hopeful that the Legislature will put some funding in there for flood mitigation, and obviously hopeful that we’ll get a piece of that.”

City Manager Michael Redlinger said it’s “not uncommon” for early bonding proposals to exclude certain projects.

Eken agreed, saying he’s “cautiously optimistic” that flood money will be included in the final bonding bill at the end of the session.

He said with “skyrocketing” flood insurance premiums starting to pour in, Moorhead can make a strong case for those mitigation dollars.

“This isn’t a nicety. This is a need,” Eken said of flood protection.

He said he and other area legislators have been in contact with the governor’s office.

“(Dayton has) made it clear that he’s open to changes, that this doesn’t mean that he’s opposed to those things that are not on the list,” Eken said. “It’s just that we only have so much money to work with.”

Moorhead also is nearing the end of its home buyout program. The city is negotiating with 10 final homeowners, Zimmerman said.

Not including those 10, the city has purchased about 230 flood-prone homes. Forty-five homeowners have refused buyouts, Zimmerman said.

The legislative session starts Feb. 25.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518