WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate rejected on Thursday an attempt to strip a spending bill of $100 million that would pay for a proposed outlet to North Dakota's swollen Devils Lake.
The 62-35 vote does not mean the outlet will be built. But it defeated the attempt by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Mark Dayton, D-Minn., to replace $100 million that would pay for the controversial project with $5 million to study its need.
"This has been a long, constant struggle here in the Congress, with Minnesota, Canada and others continuing to raise objections" to the outlet, said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.
McCain questioned the methods used to determine whether the project was worth its price.
Dayton objected because the outlet would take water from Devils Lake, which has tripled in size and rose more than 20 feet during the 1990s, and transfer it to the Sheyenne River, which flows into the Red River. The Red, which flows north into Canada's Lake Winnipeg and the Hudson Bay, forms almost all of the border between Minnesota and North Dakota.
"They're going to solve their problems by passing them on to us," Dayton said. Minnesota and Canadian officials fear an erosion of water quality.
Dorgan and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., responded that the Red affects North Dakota and Minnesota equally, so North Dakota officials would have no reason to move the problem downstream.
Conrad said the $100 million earmarked for the project can be spent only if the project meets federal environmental standards and complies with international treaties.
The spending bill that includes the provision must be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Bush before it takes effect.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is finishing a report detailing the environmental effects of the proposed outlet. The report was expected to be finished last year, but was delayed.
The Senate vote doesn't affect the outlet the state of North Dakota is building with state funds. Some residents who live along the Sheyenne have promised to sue the state to stop that project.
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