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Letter: Renewing our commitment to the Red River Valley

In 1998, a multi-agency Mediation Agreement was signed to set goals for flood damage reduction and for natural resources enhancements in the Red River Valley.

Last month, a group of us from various federal and Minnesota state agencies toured the area to learn about the work underway through the agreement, and to chart the course for the future.

We visited the Middle-Snake-Tamarac Rivers Watershed District's Agassiz Valley Project, which is one of many projects needed to achieve long-term flood solutions for northwestern Minnesota and northeastern North Dakota. We talked about the flood water retention projects that have been successfully completed since the agreement was signed, and we noted the significance of flood protection for both urban and agricultural lands and to the economy of the region.

We recognized that through the leadership of the Red River Watershed Management Board (RRWMB), the coordination between our agencies has resulted in millions of state and federal project dollars directed to projects that reflect local needs and priorities.

Further, we discussed the importance of identifying and accelerating future projects while ensuring existing wetland habitat is protected and enhanced.

Though there have been many projects in the Red River Valley which have demonstrated great success, there's still much more work to be done.

Because of this need, we are renewing our commitment to the 1998 Mediation Agreement and pledge to:

• Continue coordination on additional projects to address flood damage reduction and ensure benefits for water quality and habitat are also included.

• Work together to more quickly identify and approve projects through our respective agencies.

• Grow our partnerships with the RRWMB, watershed districts and other local and regional organizations to carry out coordinated and comprehensive watershed planning based on the most relevant engineering and scientific information.

We look forward to continuing the history of successful projects into the next decade and beyond, and we are eager to see the additional land, property and environmental protections in place because of these efforts.

-- John Jaschke, executive director, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (The letter was also signed by Dave Frederickson, commissioner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Tom Landwehr, commissioner, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, John Linc Stine, commissioner, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Col. Michael Price, commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul District, Don Baloun, State Conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Agency, Jim Leach, Refuge supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service