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Dave Olson, Published June 11 2010

Officials discuss diversion project sponsors

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker on Thursday urged other local officials to pick the cities of Fargo and Moorhead to serve as the official sponsors of a proposed flood diversion project.

“On July 15, I think the cities of Fargo and Moorhead should sign as sponsors,” Walaker told members of the Metro Flood Study Work Group meeting at Fargo City Hall.

The date mentioned is the deadline set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for local officials to let the corps know which entities would serve as sponsors of a proposed diversion project to protect the Fargo-Moorhead area from flooding.

Local officials are working for congressional approval this year of a 35,000-cubic-feet-per-second diversion channel in Cass County.

Although the powers and responsibilities of a project sponsor have yet to be spelled out, Moorhead would likely be willing to take on the role, said Diane Wray Williams and Nancy Otto, members of the Moorhead City Council as well as the Metro Flood Study Work Group.

They said it’s their understanding that a major duty of a project sponsor is to facilitate communication between federal and local officials.

Cass County Commissioner Darrell Vanyo said Cass and Fargo officials are close to reaching agreement on what a sponsor’s duties would be, and he said Fargo will likely get the nod to represent the North Dakota side of the Red River.

Also Thursday, the work group heard from Fargo City Attorney Erik Johnson, who outlined progress made on wording of a draft joint powers agreement establishing a multi-jurisdictional body that would play an ongoing role in the design, development and construction of a diversion.

What involvement the group – tentatively dubbed “The Metro Diversion Board” – would have in owning, operating, or maintaining a diversion still needs to be worked out, Johnson said.

Board membership and voting power also has not been decided, but Johnson said the committee working on the draft agreement has suggested that a nine-member panel consisting of six North Dakota and three Minnesota representatives would be one option.

“That’s a political decision,” Johnson said.

Groups likely to be included in a joint powers board include the cities of Fargo and Moorhead, Cass and Clay counties, the Cass County Joint Water Resource District and the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District.

Kevin Campbell, chairman of the Clay County Commission and co-chairman of the flood study work group, suggested September or October as the goal for reaching a signed joint powers agreement.

The Metro Flood Study Work Group set its next meeting for July 7.

Corps accepting comment on report

Starting today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will accept public comment on its draft feasibility report and environmental impact statement regarding a flood diversion project for the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The comment period will remain open until July 26.

Comments can be left at the study website at: www.internationalwaterinstitute.org/feasibility/

Paper copies of the draft EIS can be seen at Fargo’s main public library and the Dr. James Carlson Library.

Copies are also available for viewing at the public libraries in Moorhead and Halstad, Minn.

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