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Dorgan says permanent F-M flood protection a top priority

FARGO, N.D. - Sen. Byron Dorgan says he'll "set the table" for the Fargo-Moorhead area to get federal funding for permanent flood protection before he leaves office.

He said today he'll encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use $22 million it has available this year to do groundwork for the project.

At a press conference in Fargo, he called Fargo-Moorhead flood control one of his top priorities.

For funding of the rest of the project, which would be $650 million of a $1 billion bill, Dorgan said he'll rely on the Obama administration to continue appropriating funds for what the nation has seen as a need.

Dorgan said a Feb. 1 meeting in Fargo will be "pivotal" in determining what direction local leaders take on picking a local option for flood control. The corps is expected to release its latest cost-benefit analyses of diversion projects at the meeting.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said last week that he's worried that Dorgan's departure from the Senate could put funding for the project in doubt.

Walaker was cautious today in his assessment of the future, saying funding is "going to be good for 2010" and the city will work with the next senator.

Dorgan is chairman of the Senate's Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, which writes the appropriations bill that funds the corps.

Dorgan said the federal cost of the local project will have to be divvyed up by Congress and paid out over several years.