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Browns Valley flooding aid possible

ST. PAUL - State lawmakers should approve flood aid for western Minnesota's Browns Valley, Gov. Tim Pawlenty wrote to legislative leaders Monday.

Pawlenty gave legislators a seven-point plan to help the community. Proposals ranged from making sure the school district does not lose state money if students move away to giving the city clean-up money.

"Consistent with Minnesota's tradition, I trust you will be willing to work with my administration to help Browns Valley recover from this event while ensuring that any assistance is consistent with past and future aid provided in similar circumstances" Pawlenty wrote.

Pawlenty said it does not appear Browns Valley damage will be enough to reach levels where the federal government will send aid, but during a stop at the Minnesota Capitol, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson said the federal government will provide flood-related money. Peterson did not say how much aid could be forthcoming.

"We're going to help them somehow or another," Peterson, a Detroit Lakes Democrat, told reporters in St. Paul.

Peterson's 7th District includes Browns Valley; he toured the area Friday, as did Pawlenty and state Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon. State Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, toured on Saturday.

Langseth said he and Marquart plan to meet with Pawlenty on Wednesday.

"We'll try to figure out what help we can give them," he said.

The senator, chairman of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, said the 2007 public works funding bill will include flood relief aid for Browns Valley.

"They'll get something," he said.

House Democrats have proposed using roughly $2.1 million in borrowed funds to pay for anti-flood efforts in Browns Valley and Roseau.

Pawlenty asked legislative leaders to keep Browns Valley aid out of controversial bills so they don't risk his vetoes.

The governor asked lawmakers to:

-- Keep aid to the school district at pre-flood levels for two years because many students may have moved out of the area. Schools also want help paying to bus students forced to live in nearby towns.

-- Approve money for Browns Valley's efforts to clean up the town and pay for public safety service's emergency responses.

-- Ensure that Local Government Aid paid by the state is not reduced due to population loss or a drop in property values.

-- Provide low-interest home-repair loans, buy out damaged homes or give grants to homeowners who have the least ability to pay for repairs.

-- Explore ways to prevent future floods along the Little Minnesota River.

-- Increase money in a dwindling state fund to help provide cash to repair public and private property.

-- Investigate how much previous South Dakota actions, including allowing a private dike to be built, have affected Browns Valley.

Last week's flood is blamed on ice dams in the Little Minnesota River. About 140 homes in the 650-population community were affected by the flood, with 50 receiving significant damage.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.