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Helmut Schmidt, Published May 27 2010

Work group sticks with North Dakota diversion proposal

The Metro Flood Study Work Group voted unanimously Wednesday to stick with a North Dakota 35,000-cubic-feet-per-second diversion as its flood control pick for Fargo-Moorhead.

The decision came after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that the most cost-effective national plan had again increased on the Minnesota side of the Red River.

Rather than a $1.29 billion Minnesota 35,000-cfs diversion, the best deal for the federal buck is now a $1.37 billion Minnesota 40,000-cfs diversion, corps Project Co-Manager Aaron Snyder said.

However, Snyder said if local officials wanted a similarly sized North Dakota project, it would require another six to eight weeks to study. That would blow the timeline to get the project approved by Congress this year, he said.

Two things cemented the local decision to stick with a $1.46 billion North Dakota diversion as the locally preferred plan:

- Moorhead and Fargo city engineers said the cities could fend off a 40-foot Red River level in 500-year floods with a 35,000-cfs diversion.

- Snyder said if Congress approves the 35,000-cfs diversion, information from further studies can be presented and a request made later to reauthorize the project as a larger channel.

“It was a good day today,” Fargo City Commissioner Tim Mahoney said after the meeting broke up. “We’re in good shape.”

Mahoney said the group now knows federal funding will be about $836 million for the North Dakota diversion. (It can draw no more funding than the like-sized Minnesota project, Snyder said.)

The project’s benefit-to-cost ratio has also gotten relatively high, he said.

“The B-C ratio is very important. The B-C ratio started at 0.94 when we started this task force. To have that B-C ratio come to 2.26 (for the North Dakota diversion) is excellent” and helps the project move up as it jockeys for position among competing projects nationally, Mahoney said.

Which government, Fargo or Cass County, will be the North Dakota sponsor for the project, and the particulars of a joint powers agreement, must still be hashed out before July 15. Who will pick up what share of the local costs must be pegged down, too.

“We’re working on that,” Mahoney said. “We think those are all resolvable issues. We want to be sure everyone has a stake to take care of.”

Some important dates:

- June 2: The corps will release its draft feasibility report for comment, Snyder said.

- June 9: The corps will host a presentation of the draft report and environmental impact statement for the diversions from 6 to 9 p.m. at the student union ballroom at Minnesota State University Moorhead. An open house starts at 6, with a presentation at 7, followed by a public comment period.

- June 10: The Metro Flood Study Work Group meets at 3:30 p.m. in the City Commission chambers at Fargo City Hall.

- June 10: The corps will host a meeting at Centennial Hall in the lower level of the Fargo Civic Memorial Auditorium. The meeting runs 6 to 9 p.m.

- June 16: The corps hosts a meeting in Hendrum, Minn., with downstream communities to discuss potential impacts of a diversion for Fargo-Moorhead.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583