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Published May 05 2012

Diversion Discussion: Channel design to ramp up this summer

FARGO - Initial design work on the Red River diversion is progressing on time and under budget so far, and it’s about to get a lot more intense.

Aaron Snyder, project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, told local leaders last week that designs for the northern portion of the channel near the outlet south of Argusville are on track, and the work is costing about 40 percent less than budgeted.

“The team is definitely committed to ensuring the schedule remains a top priority,” Snyder said.

This summer, design teams from across the country will start work designing other portions of the channel north of Interstate 94, as well as a mitigation feature on the Red River at Drayton, N.D.

To prepare for that design work, 56 Army Corps engineers from across the country were in town for two days last week to get a hands-on look at the land where the Red River diversion will eventually be built around Fargo.

The corps engineers who are assisting in the design effort hail from five of the corps’ district offices nationwide, specifically those based in St. Paul, St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., Vicksburg, Miss., and Rock Island, Ill.

St. Paul District Commander Col. Michael Price said the visit was beneficial to the teams and they’re “eager to get started” on the channel design.

“They were able to visualize the entire alignment and what we will be constructing in the future,” Price said Thursday on a conference call with local leaders and corps officials.

The 50-plus corps engineers working on the Red River diversion are separate from the host of local engineers and consultants who are also contributing to the $200 million worth of design work that’s necessary for the project.

“We’re going to be ramping up and having many, many more folks in production,” Snyder said of the impending work.

Local and federal engineers are designing the diversion channel from north to south in a process that will take several years and likely overlap with the first stages of construction.

At the earliest, crews could break ground in spring 2013, but that schedule hinges on congressional authorization and funding, which isn’t likely until at least the end of this year.

The week ahead

The full Diversion Authority board and its subcommittees will gather for their regular monthly meetings this week.

One action to watch for is who will be appointed to serve on the authority’s new subcommittees that are tailored to deal with mitigation of impacts the project is already causing rural residents.

Authority Chairman Darrell Vanyo said the board plans to determine this week who’ll sit on the Agricultural Policy Committee, the Early Acquisition Committee and the Hardship Committee, boards the authority created last month.

Once formed, the Hardship Committee can start reviewing applications from residents south of Fargo-Moorhead who need to move for medical reasons but can’t sell their homes because of the diversion project.

The Diversion Authority meets at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in Fargo City Hall, 200 3rd St. N. The meeting is open to the public.

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