Helmut Schmidt, Published April 23 2010
Fargo, Cass must decide which government will sponsor diversionFargo and Cass County officials will be going eyeball-to-eyeball to determine which government will be the North Dakota sponsor for a Red River diversion channel.
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker and Cass County Commissioner Scott Wagner debated the issue Thursday at a meeting of the Metro Flood Study Work Group.
Participants were told by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project co-manager Aaron Snyder that the project must have local sponsors sign a pact with the corps by July 15.
That pact would have the sponsors take responsibility for the project, pay bills, and handle maintenance.
Clay County Commissioner Chairman Kevin Campbell said it won’t be hard for Moorhead and the county to agree on a Minnesota sponsor.
But that sort of comity appears harder to come by west of the Red.
Walaker said study sponsors Fargo and Moorhead should be the diversion sponsors.
“Why do we basically want to gum up the works?” he argued.
Wagner replied that the diversion won’t be built in the city. The landowners elected the county commissioners, he said.
“When I look at the landscape, the dynamics here, we should have that conversation,” Wagner said.
Walaker asked if both Fargo and Cass County could sign together, but Snyder said the pact becomes too complex with more than two sponsors.
Fargo City Commissioner Tim Mahoney agreed that talks between the city and county are needed and said the city would consult with the congressional delegation for guidance.
In other business:
- Fargo City Attorney Erik Johnson gave a rough outline of how a joint powers agreement could be crafted among Fargo, Moorhead, Cass and Clay counties and the water boards on both sides of the river to pay for, govern and maintain a diversion.
- On Sunday, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy will be in Fargo for a 5 p.m. meeting with local leaders at City Hall.
Darcy will eventually decide if the North Dakota diversion chosen as the locally preferred flood control option will continue to be considered. Without a waiver from her, the only other option for a diversion would be a Minnesota channel.
The corps hopes to have a National Economic Development plan, the option considered the best deal for the nation, determined by May 10, as well as a decision by Darcy on the North Dakota channel.
The corps’ draft report on the flood control study is to be released May 21.
The work group next meets May 13.
Keeping diversion on track a top priority
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working on several issues to ensure that plans for a Red River diversion channel to protect the metro area stay on track to be in a bill before Congress in December.
- The corps has identified $1.3 million in funding to pay the federal cost share of further studies needed of diversion plans, but transferring those funds needs the approval of the Obama administration and Congress, project co-manager Aaron Snyder said.
Local governments have already pledged their share of the study costs.
- The corps is still working on hydrology and hydraulics studies to determine the effects of a diversion on the Red River and the five tributaries that would need to be crossed in North Dakota. Studies are also under way to better determine the downstream impacts of a diversion.
- Snyder said about 30 right-of-entry forms have been returned from landowners along the proposed Minnesota and North Dakota diversion routes.
More than 200 landowners are being asked to allow surveyors on their land to gather data.
- Snyder said a meeting of natural resources groups Thursday found “no
- The corps is planning public meetings on the diversion plans June 9 in Moorhead and June 10 in Fargo. Landowner meetings will be held June 14 in Fargo and June 15 in Moorhead.
A downstream stakeholders meeting is planned for June 15 in Hendrum, Minn.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583