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Heidi Shaffer, Published September 20 2010

Diversion study and costs continue to evolve

The corps’ decision last Wednesday to extend the feasibility study not only shifts the timeline, but it also increases the cost of the study by $1 million to $2 million.

When the study began in 2008, the corps estimated costs at $5.4 million.

“When we started … nobody had any idea where this was going to go,” said Craig Evans, the corps’ co-manager of the project.

The local sponsors’ decision to pursue the North Dakota-side diversion over the federally preferred Minnesota channel meant a higher price tag, and further study of downstream impacts also pushed up costs.

The corps estimates had reached $10 million before the decision last week to move the schedule. The extension of the study will push costs closer to $11 million or $12 million, Evans said.

Costs were not the only changes the study has endured. Cost-shares and benefits of the diversion also evolved over time.

Moorhead leaders want to see a 90-10 split, but the cost-share between local sponsors was 80-20 until the council’s decision last week. In 2008, Fargo’s original proposal was a 60-40 share, according to Forum archives.

As the corps analyzed individual structures on both sides of the river and which would be damaged in a flood, the benefits of the diversion tipped further in North Dakota’s favor.

Areas to the west of the Red River will see 93 to 95 percent of the diversion’s benefits, Evans said.

But benefits could continue to change throughout the study, Evans said.

“It’s always evolving a little bit,” he said.