ST. PAUL -- Just days after Gov. Jesse Ventura appeared to close the door on calling a special session to help people affected by flooding this summer, members of a legislative task force said they hope to change his mind.
"I am optimistic until the day I see him face to face and he says there is no hope," said Rep. Maxine Penas, R-Badger.
Ventura said Monday that the Legislature used most of the state's reserves last year to balance the budget, leaving him with little help to offer.
A comparison of 1997 floods to 2002 floods
In 1997: * Water came slowly and left slowly (March 21-May 24).
* 58 of 87 counties declared disaster areas.
* 20,000 families affected.
* East Grand Forks, 99 percent of all housing was flooded.
* Water came quickly, left quickly (June 9-28).
* 18 of 87 counties declared disaster areas.
* 1,800 families affected.
* Roseau, 80 percent of all housing was flooded.
(Source: Minnesota Department of Emergency Management)
"Where do I get the money?" Ventura said. "I can't just manufacture it or print it in the basement of the Capitol."
Rep. Irv Anderson, DFL-International Falls, said lawmakers were wasting their time and taxpayers' money by meeting when the governor had made it clear that he didn't intend to call them back.
But several others said they weren't ready to give up, including Louis Jambois, who works in the Ventura administration in the state Department of Trade and Economic Development.
Jambois said he had talked to Ventura's office after the comments this week and was told that a special session remained a possibility.
"I've got nothing from the governor's office that's slammed the door on a special session," he said.
But, he added, the Legislature likely would need to put a good assessment of the damage in front of the governor along with a list of the gaps that weren't already covered by the state or federal government. Finally, lawmakers would need to show the governor where the money would come from, Jambois said.
Terri Smith of the Minnesota Department of Emergency Management said it will be years before the state has a full tally of the damage, but things are starting to come together.
In some ways, she said, the flooding that happened June 9-10 in northwestern Minnesota was more damaging than the widespread flooding of 1997 because this year, the water came and went so quickly. Many areas were hit again June 22 as they were still cleaning up from the first bout.
"It has been a double whammy to many of these counties," she said.
And some of those areas have had four or more disaster declarations in five years, giving them little time to recover before another problem has come along, she said.
So far, 18 Minnesota counties have been declared disaster areas from the flooding. That has affected about 1,800 families, with some of the worst damage in Roseau, where about 80 percent of all houses were flooded.
Agriculture was battered as well. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency estimates about $251 million in crop losses and $103 million in damage to agricultural buildings, equipment and soil.
John Monson of the USDA said the new farm bill includes some provisions that might allow Minnesota to use money from a variety of federal conservation programs to help prevent future flooding.
This was the first meeting of the flood relief task force, made up of members of the state House of Representatives. Meetings will be held later this month in Roseau, Twin Valley and other areas affected by flooding this summer.
In the meantime, Warren Mayor Dick Nelson urged northwestern Minnesota residents to hang in there.
"I think it's important for these communities to know this is not going to be a sprint race -- it's going to be a marathon," said Nelson, whose own town flooded twice in 1996 and again in 1997.
A call to Ventura's office seeking comment about the possibility of a special session wasn't immediately returned.
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