An important step for crisis mitigation in the flood regions of northwest Minnesota came Thursday as President Obama declared the seven-county region a disaster zone. The recognition opens the doors to federal assistance and is coming at a time when they need it most -- as citizens await another impending crest.
The river rose to 41 feet in early April and marked the highest it has been since 1897. Experts have predicted another crest will come sometime between April 15 and April 22, and citizens could see water 41 feet or higher yet again. Enter Obama to save the day.
(Well maybe not entirely, but kind of.)
The week began with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty criticizing the Democratic-controlled legislature for not including enough money for flood control in recent public works spending bills. Whether Obama's actions were a direct response to Pawlenty's lip service, I couldn't say, but this Democratic legislator gave Pawlenty less to gripe about.
But this shouldn't be a partisan conflict. Pawlenty was right to criticize -- the flood-riddled region received $12 million for flood mitigation through public works bills, which was half of what state senators had requested. Furthermore, it took Obama nearly a month to open the region to federal assistance. It seems to me that when destruction reaches into the hundreds of millions of dollars and further demise is imminent, the federal government should maybe pick up some slack. Thankfully, it did.
As the region is already in the middle of the worst of the flooding, the money will mostly go to repair damage and future flood-control projects. I don't think it's right to criticize any politicians for not curbing the problem beforehand. Floods can be horribly difficult to predict, and much of their power depend on weather and other evolving conditions.
Pawlenty did the right thing to give the citizens of Red River Valley a voice, and Obama did the right thing by responding. Now it's time for everyone to keep the citizens in northwest Minnesota in their minds and hope mother nature gets on board with these bipartisan pleasantries and takes it easy on the Red River Valley.
Photo: Coast Guard News/Flickr