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Patrick Springer, Published November 09 2010

New Red River Retention Authority to work to streamline permitting process for water storage projects

MOORHEAD – Officials who gathered today for the first official meeting of the new Red River Valley Retention Authority were confident projects can be found to store water to reduce flood damage.

The key challenge, water officials agreed, will be to significantly streamline the lengthy permitting process so the projects can be built.

The new authority, still being organized, was created by a joint powers agreement between the umbrella watershed district officials in both North Dakota and Minnesota.

One of the water officials on hand for today’s historic meeting, Bill Hejl, an Amenia, N.D., farmer, said projects in North Dakota and Minnesota already have been identified to store up to 1 million acre-feet of water.

Engineers have identified projects capable of cumulatively storing 600,000 acre-feet in North Dakota and 400,000 in Minnesota. He said those figures are conservative.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, on hand for the historic meeting, said securing significant water retention in the Red River basin will be critical to winning support in Minnesota for a diversion channel to protect Fargo-Moorhead from flooding.

Although retention is a key component to comprehensive water management for the valley, Lanning echoed other officials in saying retention alone will not provide adequate protection for Fargo-Moorhead.

For more on the story read Wednesday’s Forum.