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Pawlenty to feds: Speedy disaster aid required to combat Red

ST. PAUL -- State officials are ramping up their Red River Valley flood assistance and asking the federal government for similar efforts.

As northwestern Minnesota communities fought rising floodwater amid rain and a snow storm, Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Wednesday sought an expedited federal disaster declaration. Pawlenty sent a letter to President Obama.

He sought a speedy disaster declaration for the Red River Valley region. The governor said it is clear there will be enough damage to trigger federal aid, which could include disaster unemployment assistance, small business disaster loans and low-interest loans for flooded farmers.

"I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments and that supplementary federal assistance is necessary," Pawlenty wrote.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have been "informally" involved in the region, Pawlenty said, but a federal disaster declaration will broaden their participation.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson met Wednesday with Obama and North Dakota's congressional delegation to discuss the flooding.

"President Obama listened to everything we told him and he assured us that we would have whatever assistance we needed," Peterson said. "He understands the severity of the situation."