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Wendy Reuer, Published January 04 2011

West Fargo gives diversion one more chance

For now, the West Fargo City Commission will continue to support the Red River diversion project.

But if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not consider moving the alignment at least 1½ miles west of the city to avoid impact on the Sheyenne Diversion, the commission will likely revoke its support of the project.

The corps announced in December that it favored an eastern alignment. West Fargo officials denounced the shift, saying it would impact the city’s Sheyenne Diversion and negatively impact future growth plans.

West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern said an open and frank conversation to consider the city’s support of the diversion was needed Monday night.

“We’re reiterating our position that we want a western diversion at this point,” Mattern said.

The commission unanimously approved a motion Monday directing the city attorney and staff to draft a letter to the corps explaining the detrimental impact of the eastern alignment.

The corps has given local leaders a Jan. 31 deadline to present their cases as to why the alignment should be moved farther west.

Mattern said not only does the eastern alignment affect future growth – something the corps has said they do not consider as a reason to change the alignment – but it could send water into the Hayden Heights addition and could flood the city’s lagoon system, which could cost up to $50 million to replace.

Tom Beaton, a rural West Fargo resident, said either alignment will affect him. The eastern alignment would force him off of his farm, and an alignment farther west would go through farmland.

“I’d rather give up the farmland than the buildings,” he said Monday.

Wally Tintes, who describes himself as one of the oldest West Fargoans, said he has never been in favor of the diversion project. He said he believes there are other ways to protect the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Commissioner Mark Simmons said he is sympathetic to Fargo’s need for the project, but not at the expense of West Fargo.

“We can always be good neighbors, but in the end, we have to do what is best for West Fargo,” Simmons said. “I think we send a very strong message to the corps that we want that mile and a half. If not, I would be opposed to this.”

A major frustration for West Fargo leaders has been a lack of communication from the corps.

“I think the (corps’) communication with West Fargo has been next to nonexistent,” said Commissioner Mike Thorstad “With this plan, the protection we have would be eliminated. I certainly think that we should be getting direct feedback from them.”

Mattern said he really did not know if revoking support of the project would make a difference. Although West Fargo has a seat on the Metro Flood Study Work Group, the city does not get a vote on decisions.

“I don’t know if it would make a difference with the corps,” Mattern said. “But in the court of public opinion, it makes a huge statement.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530