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Published January 18 2011

Forum editorial: Diversion alignment a problem?

Think of the race toward permanent flood protection for Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead as a series of hurdles. As one is cleared, there’s another that’s often higher than the last one.

The announcement last week by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the agency favors an east alignment for a proposed Fargo-Moorhead diversion is another hurdle. This time the corps, which makes much of listening to the concerns and priorities of local people, apparently was not listening.

The western alignment about a mile and a half west of the proposed eastern route is overwhelmingly favored by the Metro Flood Study Work Group. The group is comprised of local leaders from governments and agencies that are planning the diversion project. After lengthy study and analyses, the group concluded that the western alignment is the better choice.

The corps went with the eastern option for reasons that are sound – at least to the corps. If there is a bright factor in the corps’ choice, it’s that the project will continue to move forward with concentration on the east route. The western alignment has not been rejected out of hand, but rather remains on the table for study.

In other words, a final alignment is a ways off in the process. In fact, as a final route is determined, adjustments based on all sorts of on-the-ground factors likely will be made.

Nonetheless, the long-term benefits of a western alignment cannot be ignored. Some of the factors confirming the efficacy of the western route are based on work done by local engineers and other competent experts. Also, two corps policies seem to be in conflict. The corps apparently is using a policy that tilts the project to the eastern option.

Again, nothing is set in stone – or to be more accurate, in the muddy soils of the Red River Valley. Members of the study work group emphasize that their partnership with the corps is cordial and generally productive. They do not see the corps as an adversary or an impediment to the project. They realistically understand that a project of such unprecedented size and complexity is bound to face hurdles. The discussion over the diversion alignment is a hurdle but one that can be cleared.

As with any partnership, partners occasionally disagree and must compromise in order to move an enterprise forward. The corps’ partnership responsibility in the diversion project is to recognize the clear wishes of its local partners and take another look at the western alignment.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.