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Published January 02 2011

West Fargo to revisit support for diversion

After weeks of mounting frustration, West Fargo commissioners will revisit their support for the proposed Red River diversion at their meeting Monday.

More than a year ago, the commission voted in support of a North Dakota diversion – under the condition that the project be built 1½ miles west of the city so as not to affect the Sheyenne Diversion.

But a change in the city’s position is possible, city leaders said, since officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say they aren’t inclined to move the alignment west.

West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern said he wants “an open discussion” Monday about how the commissioners feel and what they think the city’s next step should be.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know what will happen,” Mattern said. “My message is going to be that we need to support the diversion, but we need to find some way in a hurry to convince the corps.”

West Fargo Commissioner Mark Simmons has a different opinion.

Simmons said he personally would revoke his support for the diversion if the corps doesn’t agree to move the path west of the city.

“I don’t know honestly that if they don’t do that that I could support it,” he said. “I’m very concerned about them going right alongside of our diversion rather than what we had voted on in supporting them.”

But, whether the whole commission feels that way remains to be seen, he said.

“It’s a little premature, but I definitely think it’s in the cards,” Simmons said of the possibility that West Fargo could withdraw its support for the diversion.

Corps officials said in November that taking land out of the flood plain for future development wasn’t a good enough reason to justify moving the diversion’s path.

Local leaders have until Jan. 31 to present their case as to why the alignment should be farther west.

West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern wants the commission “to review what our stance will be and how we want to approach it” in light of the corps’ position.

Mattern and Simmons said they’re angry with the lack of communication from corps officials.

West Fargo has a seat on the Metro Flood Study Work Group but doesn’t get to vote on decisions.

Mattern said he feels he’s been able to get the city’s message out, but the corps hasn’t been receptive.

“In my mind, the corps needs to create with us a better dialogue,” Mattern said. “We have a big play in this, and it’s like the corps doesn’t even talk to us in West Fargo.”

Simmons agreed.

“I’m not very happy with the corps at all,” he said. “We’ve never gotten any answers – a lot of spin city, but no answers.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541