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Langseth backs bill to provide $67 million in flood relief, prevention

ST. PAUL - Minnesota senators are considering spending $67 million to help fund flood cleanup and prevention efforts, but that is not enough to protect communities like Moorhead from future floods.

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said the bill - which the Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed Wednesday - includes $500,000 for the Red River Valley Commission to study the best way to prevent future floods. Only after that study is finished, he said, will communities know what is needed to fight floods.

The bill would spend more than $17 million to reimburse flood-fighting costs and to remove temporary sandbags and dikes. Another $50 million in loans would be used to build permanent flood-control structures.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration wrote much of the bill in consultation with Langseth and other local lawmakers.

Director Kris Eide of the state homeland security office told the Finance Committee that 28 Minnesota counties received a presidential disaster declaration due to flooding and other severe weather. The latest estimate is $27 million damage to public property.

While most federal response is aimed at public property, there are programs to help families rebuild, Eide said.

More than 850 Minnesota families have registered with federal officials for aid. About $1.5 million in federal money is available to help them recover, she said.

Federal money will help pay for National Guard personnel who helped fight the flood and restore highways to good condition.

About $45 million of the $50 million in flood-prevention efforts would go to the Red River Valley. Other areas, such as Granite Falls, would get the rest.

Flood prevention efforts in response to Red River flooding in 1997 helped save Red River Valley communities this spring, Langseth said.

"Even though this flood was far worse, in Breckenridge there was no damage at all," the senator said. "We have got our money back several times on this disaster alone."