Walz says special session to address flooding relief is possible

One GOP senator suggested Walz and the legislature should rededicate a portion of the $19.5 billion budget surplus appropriations from 2023 to flood-related aid.

Gov. Tim Walz and members of his cabinet surveyed the damage and ongoing flooding Tuesday, including in Waterville, pictured here. (Office of Gov. Tim Walz/Public Domain)

As public safety officials and Minnesota National Guard members continued their emergency relief efforts in flood-affected areas across the state this week, Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday that the possibility of calling a special session to shore up disaster relief and climate change-related flood mitigation is not out of the question.

“We’ll see, and I say we’ll leave it open, if that’s necessary, to make folks whole again and to get this fixed, of course we’ll do that,” Walz told media gathered for a press conference following Walz’s helicopter tour of the affected flooded areas in southern Minnesota.

“We’ll take a look, as I said,” Walz continued, “there’s a process in this. Once it starts to unfold we’ll get a better idea of it. I think probably that is the absolute definition of what a special session should be used for, an emergency situation where something was  unanticipated. I certainly will leave it open to that. If we need to do it, we’ll do it.”

Walz’s comments came following a suggestion by one Republican lawmaker that the governor and legislature should consider holding a special session to rededicate some of the state’s historic budget surplus appropriations to flood relief.

“Minnesotans would be well served by a special session to reconsider how much of the $19.5 billion surplus commitments can be deferred or diverted to emergency disaster relief and critical infrastructure,” Sen. Zack Duckworth, R-Lakeville, said in a social media post on Monday. “We should invest in rebuilding our communities and keeping our people safe.”

Communications staff with the Senate Republican caucus told Alpha News their leadership has not “received any request from Walz or the DFL to discuss a special session” as it relates to flood relief as of Wednesday.

Over the weekend, after several inches of rain fell in many areas of the state and flood waters began to rise, Walz declared a peacetime emergency and then authorized the Minnesota National Guard to support emergency flood operations in affected areas across the state.

On Monday, Walz described the flooding he and members of his cabinet observed in some portions of the state as “unprecedented.”

‘Nature doesn’t care whether you believe in climate change’

Walz did share with reporters during his southern Minnesota press briefing on Tuesday that the state can tap into its Disaster Assistance Contingency Account (DACA), which had a balance of $28.2 billion as of last week. That account would be the first state source of funding for flood-related damage repairs and recovery.

Depending on whether a federal disaster declaration is made will impact whether Walz taps into that DACA fund.

“We would see if maybe the damage was higher than the count that is there, we have the DACA that’s there — after safety when we build back it’s about mitigation,” added Walz, who then suggested a special session may focus not only on flood relief, but also expenditures on mitigating future floods in the affected areas he said are caused by climate change.

“I remind folks, nature doesn’t care whether you believe in climate change or not,” Walz said. “The insurance companies sure believe in it. The actuarials sure believe in it. And we do, of trying to fix this.”

“As we see these chaotic climate events due to climate change increase, we need to think about how we’re building back more resiliently,” he said during a press conference the day prior.

Walz is very familiar with the area in and around Mankato that has been heavily impacted by rainfall and flooding.

On Monday, several media outlets reported that rising flood waters on the Blue Earth River near Mankato caused a portion of the Rapidan Dam to partially fail. That dam is located just southwest of Mankato, an area Walz used to represent when he was a member of Congress.

The condition of the Rapidan Dam and whether it should be preserved or dismantled in favor of other flood mitigation measures has been a topic of discussion among local leaders in the area for a better part of the last two decades. Former Republican legislator Tony Cornish has continued to speak out in recent years about the need for funding to shore up the Rapidan Dam.

In 2021 Blue Earth County conducted a feasibility study on the future of the dam. That study noted damage caused to the facility in 2010, 2019 and 2020 after heavy rainfalls. The dam also underwent emergency repairs in 2002 “after extensive undermining of the dam’s foundation was discovered.”

Walz, who lived in Mankato for more than 20 years before becoming governor in 2019, mentioned his familiarity with the dam on Tuesday, as he surveyed the damage and ongoing flooding.

“Like, I’m thinking with that Rapidan Dam piece of it, I’ve been over that thing 100 times on my bike,” Walz said. “That’s the jacket trail that runs right by my house. I’ve been on it 100 times, and you don’t think how close the dam was to the road that you’re riding on.”


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.