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Tim Mahoney, Published May 02 2010

Diversion discussions transparent

In response to The Forum editorial of Sunday, April 25:

The Metro Flood Study Work Group force has been transparent in its findings and tried to keep the public informed of all the issues positive and negative. Nothing is set in stone until the final report is done.

It is apparent that the public wants data as quickly as available but should be aware that this is a process of continued discussion until the report is completed (such is the nature of transparency). There are some new studies being done on the hydraulics and hydrology of the river with the data from the 2009 and 2010 events. The Army Corps of Engineers has to make sure the full effects of the flow of the river are taken into account.

Now the good news is that the 100-year flood level may go up and this would mean we would have increased federal funding for the whole project and we could have more property protected. This would decrease local share cost of the project.

We know there will be downstream effects of the diversion, whether in North Dakota or Minnesota. The task force is very aware of these issues and knows they have to be addressed. Everyone in the Red River Valley is going to have trouble with a 500-year event, and we have to be prepared.

In talking with Manitoba Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, Steve Ashton, when Winnipeg’s Diversion was done, they addressed the downstream effects as well as upstream effects in the different communities. They used ring dikes and have protected all the property up and down the river.

We are going to meet a variety of hurdles all through the planning and development of the diversion, and we are committed to make it happen. The truth is we will face multiple different challenges on this project and have to figure out how to solve them.

Don’t be surprised that in the future we have a revision of the downstream effects and we will continue to work with the downstream communities to solve those issues. We are facing many challenges with this project and are working earnestly to solve them.

The press is in our meeting room when we receive the data and it is then freely shared (again, such is the nature of transparency). Frequently after a meeting Kevin Campbell, co-chairman of the task force, or I will meet with your reporter and make sure the facts are correct. Hopefully in June when the corps gives its report, the media will have a better understanding of the downstream effects. We have to address the issue whether it is 11.2 inches (most recent update) or whatever level it may be in order to complete the project. The final report is expected to be completed in June at which time we will understand what the corps has learned.

We are committed to this project because our communities need permanent flood protection, and we are willing to keep our communities informed at all times. Please do not confuse our effort to keep the community informed at all times (just like during the floods of 2009 and 2010) in our efforts to be transparent with “loose lips.”

Mahoney, M.D., is a Fargo city commissioner.