Pawlenty would veto flood diversion works proposalA compromise protecting communities downstream from a proposed Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project appeared Monday night to be headed for legislative approval, but the bill containing the provision is destined for a gubernatorial veto. An hour before the House began debate on the public works funding bill that contained the flood provision, Gov. Tim Pawlenty sent a letter to lawmakers saying he would veto the entire bill.
By: By Don Davis, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
ST. PAUL — A compromise protecting communities downstream from a proposed Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project appeared Monday night to be headed for legislative approval, but the bill containing the provision is destined for a gubernatorial veto.
An hour before the House began debate on the public works funding bill that contained the flood provision, Gov. Tim Pawlenty sent a letter to lawmakers saying he would veto the entire bill.
The Republican governor told Democratic leaders of the public works funding committees that they have “blatantly ignored the requests and concerns voiced by myself, my staff and my administration.”
Pawlenty said the nearly $1 billion public works proposal, to be financed by the state selling bonds, far exceeds the $685 million he proposed to spend.
“You chose not to negotiate with us at all,” he wrote.
Democrats, however, said it was Pawlenty who would not negotiate.
The governor claimed that lawmakers’ priorities are “misguided” because the bill “leaves out funding for important public safety and veterans projects.”
“Despite failing to fund these key priorities, the bill contains money for improvements in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, enhanced snowboarding and snow tubing facilities at Theodore Wirth park, various sports facilities and civic center, trial enhancements and other local earmark projects,” Pawlenty wrote.
Pawlenty’s letter overshadowed the Fargo-Moorhead diversion issue Monday night. Not everyone was buying the compromise.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said he feared the provision would be read too strictly and forbid any extra water downstream if a diversion is built.
Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, said that is exactly what he wants.
Lanning said he agrees with Eken and other downstream officials about the need to make sure the diversion does not cause extra flooding downstream.
“Zero is not feasible,” Lanning said.
The provision contained in a public works funding bill allows the state to spend money on a diversion proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when a plan to prevent downstream damage has been implemented.
Originally, Eken wanted to forbid any state spending on the diversion until the federal government drew up a plan to prevent downstream damage; the new language allows the state to draw up the plan since Minnesota legislators have no control over Congress.
Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said that he is satisfied with the provision, both protecting downstream communities and allowing the diversion to proceed.
“It doesn’t require the federal government to do anything,” he said.
Eken and Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said upstream water retention pools should hold back enough water to prevent excess flooding downstream of Fargo-Moorhead.
The public works would put $63.5 million into flood fighting, mostly Red River Valley projects. Langseth’s Senate bill originally would have provided $70 million, while Pawlenty and the House opted for $50 million.
Despite being too big for the Republican governor, the bill did not include items most important to Pawlenty:
* $89 million to expand a Moose sex offender treatment center.
* $10 million for upgrading the state’s highest-security prison in Oak Park Heights.
* $9.5 million to improve the Minneapolis veterans home.
* Language to allow the state to spend $18 million for a state park along Lake Vermilion.
The bill is a compromise between similar bills earlier passed by the House and Senate.
About a third of the bill funds work on college and university campuses statewide, mostly repair and renovation work, with some additions and new buildings sprinkled in.
The bill also spends $67 million on replacing and repairing bridges.
The biggest Pawlenty disappointment was in the failure to include $89 million to enlarge the Moose Lake sex offender facility for 400 more patients.
The Moose Lake facility is for sex offenders who have served their prison time, but judges have decided they are too dangerous to be released.
Instead of expanding the treatment facility, the bonding bill requires an extensive study to determine whether more sex offender facilities are needed.
Even with the study, Langseth said he thinks the Legislature later this year will approve some improvement at Moose Lake.
He was even more concerned about the on-going cost if the facility is expanded, saying it could cost $40 million more a year.
Don Davis reports for
Forum Communications Co.