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Published May 27, 2014, 09:36 AM

F-M area included in water resources act

WASHINGTON — After years of debate, the U.S. House and Senate last week passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which authorizes inland waterway and harbor projects important to agriculture all over the country.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek

WASHINGTON — After years of debate, the U.S. House and Senate last week passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which authorizes inland waterway and harbor projects important to agriculture all over the country.

In a victory to farm and transportation groups and a defeat for Heritage Action for America, a conservative group that opposed it, the margins in both the Senate and the House were enormous.

The vote in the Senate was 91 to 7, and in the House 412 to 4.

The bill authorizes modernization of the locks and dams on the Mississippi River and harbor projects that are important to agriculture. The Waterways Council, the National Grain and Feed Association and American Soybean Association had endorsed the bill.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., praised the bill for including permanent flood protection for Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., and the Red River Valley.

“Now that we have authorization, we also need to make sure the Army Corps of Engineers takes a comprehensive approach to floods in the Red River Valley by addressing concerns regarding the upstream staging area,” Hoeven said.

The total cost of the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion project is roughly $1.8 billion, with 45 percent, or $800 million, assumed by the federal government, Hoeven said. The nonfederal share will be split three ways: Minnesota will assume $100 million; North Dakota and local governments will assume $450 million each. Federal funds will have to be appropriated each year on an ongoing basis to cover the cost.

The American Soybean Association praised the action.

ASA noted that the conference report “will free up significant funding within the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for additional waterways infrastructure projects; increase the level of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars that will be spent on port maintenance and dredging; streamline the Army Corps of Engineers’ project review process; increase Corps flexibility to maintain navigation during low water events; and promote the use of alternative financing and public-private partnerships to fund waterways infrastructure.”

The bill now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

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