Minnesota and North Dakota had requested the president allocate $30 million in his next budget.
But given the financial constraints in Washington, local members of Congress acknowledged today they expected to receive less than what they’d hoped for.
“We asked for the moon, because we’ve learned that that’s how you get as good a number as we got,” North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad said. “We knew we weren’t going to get ($30 million).”
Conrad and Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson said they’re grateful the Obama Administration included funding for the diversion project at all.
“We could’ve got nothing,” Peterson said. “There’s some money in there and it’s recognized, so that’s a positive thing. Nobody ever said this was going to be easy.”
North Dakota Rep. Rick Berg agreed.
“While Rick is disappointed that the President’s budget did not provide the full amount of funding requested by the Congressional delegation, the inclusion of this project in the budget proposal does show that this project is a priority for the Corps and will help keep this project moving forward,” Berg’s spokeswoman Alee Lockman said.
In the 2013 budget, the White House designated $102 million toward the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ study and development of civil works projects nationwide.
Of that total, the Red River diversion received among the highest allocations of any project in the country, coming second only to a Louisiana coastal project that received $9.5 million in funding.
Conrad said it’s also a telling accomplishment for the project to be included in the president’s budget when it hasn’t yet received congressional authorization yet.
“We’re quite fortunate to be funded here at all,” he said. “They’ve in effect put money behind a project that’s not yet been authorized.”
North Dakota and Minnesota federal lawmakers plan to push for authorization this year, a step that will then allow Congress to consider official appropriations for construction.
Civil works projects are typically authorized through Water Resources Development Acts, which Congress has been notoriously inconsistent in taking up.
The last WRDA bill was passed in 2007, and Conrad said he’s unsure whether one will come forward this year.
With that uncertainty, Conrad said North Dakota and Minnesota lawmakers are looking at alternative ways to get the F-M diversion authorized in 2012.
One vehicle could be an omnibus appropriations bill, the likes of which funded Grand Forks’ protection after the 1997 flood, Conrad said.
In the mean time, Army Corps engineers in St. Paul said they have plenty of funds to continue design and engineering work on the $1.78 billion project.
President Obama already allocated $11.4 million in funding for 2012.
Coupled with the local matching dollars, Project Manager Aaron Snyder said about $28 million could be spent on the diversion project this year.
With the president’s allocation for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, the corps now looks to spend about $10 million to continue design efforts for another year.
“Obviously we won’t be able to accomplish as much,” Snyder said. “But it’s still a large amount of funding … and we’re still going to be on schedule.”