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Obama signs federal disaster declaration for Minnesota, following spring floods

WASHINGTON — President Obama today declared 20 counties in both the Red River Valley and southern Minnesota a federal disaster area, following severe flooding and storms that hit the state in March.

The formal declaration makes available federal funding to help pay for cleanup, repair and recovery work.

The covered counties in Minnesota are: Big Stone, Blue Earth, Brown, Carver, Chippewa, Clay, Grant, Lac qui Parle, Le Sueur, Lyon, McLeod, Nicollet, Redwood, Renville, Scott, Sibley, Stevens, Traverse, Wilkin, and Yellow Medicine. Obama also signed a federal disaster declaration for 39 counties and three tribal regions in North Dakota, both in the Valley and along other rivers and lakes that breached their banks in that state.

White House officials said the money can be used for "emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms and flooding," as well as "hazard mitigation measures." 

"The major disaster declaration means FEMA will fund 75 percent of approved costs," officials with Gov. Mark Dayton's office said in a statement hailing the announcement. "Gov. Dayton will recommend to the legislature that the state fully fund the remaining 25 percent share. This request is designed to relieve the burden to communities like Moorhead, Granite Falls and many others who have had as many as four disasters in the past year.'

Minnesota and North Dakota members of Congress have been working to secure money for large projects that would mitigate flooding in the Red River Valley. The largest among those is a controversial $1.7 billion diversion channel that would eventually funnel flood waters around Fargo and Moorhead, lowering flood levels there but pushing the excess water downstream faster.

Rep. Collin Peterson is also leading efforts to secure another $500 million in the Farm Bill toward a $1 billion flood water retention plan that would eventually lower maximum flood levels by up to 10 feet in the Valley.

Eventually, lawmakers say, they hope to never need another one of these flood disaster declarations again.

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