While the Richland-Wilkin Joint Power Authority was organizing its latest lawsuit, the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority saw progress on Capitol Hill as the United States Senate and House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development, or WRRDA, Act.

The bill authorized numerous projects nationwide, including the F-M diversion project and was signed into law by President Barack Obama Tuesday, June 10. In response to the passage of the bill, members of the North Dakota Congressional delegation each made a statement praising its passage.

“It has taken more than a year, but we finally secured permanent flood protection for North Dakota around Fargo,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp-D, N.D.

Republican Sen. John Hoeven, N.D., said, “Congress’ authorization this week for the Fargo-Moorhead diversion was critical because it enables us to now pursue federal construction funding to get the project started.”

“I welcome the President’s signature on legislation which contains important provisions for the North Dakota flood protection and water rights,” stated Rep. Kevin Cramer-R, N.D.

The statements from the Senators didn’t go without mentioning the issues upstream, though.

“Now we need to come together to get the diversion built to protect our communities from the devastating consequences of future floods while addressing the upstream impacts,” Heitkamp said in a news release.

“Upstream flood protection is necessary. We need to continue to make sure upstream concerns are addressed,” stated a press release from Hoeven’s office. The release further states that Hoeven is working to get the Red River Basin designated as a Critical Conservation Area, making it eligible for federal flood protection funding.

Passage of the WRRDA bill was met with little surprise by the JPA, who, according, to Tim Fox, Wilkin County State’s Attorney and member of the JPA, understood why it was approved.

“It got such overwhelming approval because everyone got something out of it,” Fox said. “Members of Congress from California, Louisiana and other projects across the country are included.

“In order to get an appropriation of funds, projects need authorization first, so these projects were authorized, this did not provide them with any funding,” Fox said. “The funding side would also go through congress, it would be the House that makes the decision on appropriations.”

The next step for the JPA will be to file the lawsuit. Fox explained that in district court, the parties as well as the Minnesota Attorney General will be served the complaint. The parties will then have to acknowledge the lawsuit for progress to continue.

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