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Heidi Shaffer, Published May 26 2010

Cass cities share diversion concerns

Several Cass County cities outside of the proposed North Dakota diversion expressed concerns over the project’s financing at a meeting Tuesday with county officials.

The Cass County Commission hosted its fourth informational meeting about the proposed 35,000-cubic-foot diversion in Casselton.

Casselton Mayor Ed McConnell said he has no doubt the project needs to happen, but the biggest challenge will be in finding a way to fund it.

The county estimates the local share of the more than $1.4 billion project at $282 million, but officials won’t have a definitive number until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases the federal government’s final share, County Engineer Keith Berndt said.

Local officials plan to use a sales tax, special assessments, or a combination of the two, said Darrell Vanyo, commission chairman.

Some city leaders at the meeting said they favored a special assessment if the county uses a tiered system in which those seeing the most benefit from the project will pay more than those living outside of the project.

Arthur Mayor Steve Perry said many of his rural constituents don’t see a benefit to the plan they will have to help pay for with a sales tax.

“I think you guys have a lot of selling to do to the rural people,” he said.

Other issues about increased flooding downstream of the diversion had Hunter Mayor Lonnie Nelson questioning whether the estimated $50 million in downstream mitigation that is planned will be enough.

Leaders from Alice, Amenia, Arthur, Ayr, Buffalo, Casselton, Davenport, Gardner, Grandin, Hunter, Kindred, Mapleton, Leonard, Page and Tower City attended the meeting.

If you go

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511