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Dave Olson, Published March 11 2010

Minnesota Gov.Tim Pawlenty wants North Dakota diversion considered

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Wednesday he wants a North Dakota diversion advanced as a potential permanent flood protection project in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

A local task force must soon decide whether to back a diversion on the North Dakota side of the Red River or on the Minnesota side.

During a visit to Moorhead on Wednesday, Pawlenty said a North Dakota diversion appears to have advantages over a Minnesota channel. He wants a North Dakota plan among those presented to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this spring, with an eye toward having a project go before Congress for approval later this year.

“It’s my personal hope the Army Corps will be open to studying more than one option,” Pawlenty said, a reference to hopes local officials have that the corps will give further study to diversions for either side of the Red River that would carry flows in the neighborhood of 35,000 cubic feet per second.

No matter what option local officials choose for further review, one plan that will move forward is a 20,000-cubic-feet-per-second diversion on the Minnesota side of the river, a plan the corps sees as being the most cost effective from a national perspective.

Clay County Commission Chairman Kevin Campbell, who is also co-chairman of the Metro Flood Study Work Group, said a North Dakota diversion has support among many local officials.

But he said there is a worry that if a North Dakota plan ultimately fails to achieve federal approval, the only option left will be the 20,000 cfs Minnesota diversion.

Campbell said local officials hope that if the 20,000 cfs Minnesota diversion ends up being the only option left on the table, it could be beefed up to 35,000 cfs and still receive the required review in time to be presented to Congress late this year.

After meeting with Campbell and Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland, Pawlenty said local officials are doing what is necessary to be ready for possible heavy flooding later this spring.

“I leave here today feeling very confident that Moorhead and Clay County are as prepared as possible for these events,” Pawlenty said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555