Area flood-relief projects included in state bonding bill

On Wednesday this week, I met with local officials to talk about some of the area’s flood control efforts. They were in St. Paul to convince state lawmakers to include area projects in a capital investment package that is aimed at funding flood mitigation efforts around the state.

Jon Erichson, Austin’s city engineer; Bev Nordby from the Cedar River Watershed District; Justin Hanson from the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District; and Brett Behnke from the Shell Rock River Watershed District came to the Capitol to speak about local flood-prevention efforts. They happened to come on the same day that Austin officially was moved into a flood warning.

These leaders did a wonderful job explaining our region’s needs both now and in the future, and with their help, we were able to convince legislators to include the local projects in the Senate’s capital investment bill. That bill continues to move through the House and Senate and likely will continue to be amended as we see how this spring’s flood situation plays out.

In total, the Senate’s bill allocates $55 million in bonding dollars for statewide flood relief efforts, and another $10 million in bonding dollars will go to Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) projects. The money will be divided among the specified projects in the state, including Turtle Creek, Cedar River and the City of Austin.

If flooding does affect your property, or you believe it might, state agencies have provided very good information about who to call for help. The City of Austin has good information for homeowners online at http://www.ci.austin.mn.us/Engineering/flood.html, as does the local library. In addition, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has provided specific information for farmers worried about flooding.

Primarily, farmers should update a current inventory of petroleum, fertilizer, pesticide, seed, feed, grain and equipment. Officials recommend measures to protect each of these items from flooding.

Grain: Grain that is threatened by flooding may be moved to sites that have not been pre-approved by examiners, but the Department of Agriculture should be contacted after the transfer has taken place. Inspections of temporary sites will occur after the fact – any grain that has been exposed to floodwater cannot be used for human consumption or animal feed.

Agricultural Chemicals: Any tank valves should be closed and locked, and all tanks should be secured to prevent movement or damage. Small pesticide containers should be moved away or protected from floodwaters and drains. If any pesticides are damaged, they may not be put in the trash or dumped onto the ground.

Seed and feed: Seed and animal feed should be stored off the ground and bins should be sandbagged or diked. For seed, the department recommends keeping a copy of the labeling and an unopened seed container from each lot to preserve evidence in case a performance problem with that seed occurs.

Manure: If a manure storage facility has the potential to overflow, the owner must contact the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 1-800-657-3864 before flooding occurs. If manure storage facilities do overflow, owners must contact the Minnesota Duty Officer at 1-800-422-0798. The department typically discourages winter manure application, but it is considered an acceptable option to remove manure from facilities that may be threatened by floodwaters or in danger of overflowing.

In the event that flooding does occur on any property, local emergencies should be reported by dialing 911. To request state assistance or report an agricultural chemical incident, a food or feed incident, or a plant or animal health emergency, contact the Minnesota Duty Officer at 1-800-422-0798. In addition, the Department of Agriculture has a list of programs that exist to help farmers recover from disasters. Contacts for those programs, as well as more information on all of these topics, may be found online at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/ under “Spring Flooding.”

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at: sen.dan.sparks@senate.mn; 651-296-9248; Room 19 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.

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Senator Rod Skoe
Rod Skoe represents District 2, which includes all or portions of Becker, Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Otter Tail and Wadena counties in the northwestern part of the state. He chairs the Tax Committee.

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