« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Published May 10 2012

Diversion officials to begin review of hardship cases

FARGO – A new subcommittee of the Diversion Authority can start considering buyout applications from residents who are already feeling negative impacts from the Red River diversion plans.

The authority approved appointments Thursday to three new subcommittees – including the Hardship Review Committee, which will weigh applications from residents seeking a buyout under the authority’s hardship policy.

The policy, approved last month, applies only to residents who would otherwise be bought out because of the project but suffer a medical condition that requires them to relocate now.

Residents south of Fargo-Moorhead are having trouble selling their homes because of the threat of the diversion project, which stands to displace several upstream communities because of a dam feature.

Residents seeking a buyout under the hardship policy must submit an application – including a doctor’s certification of their condition – to the Diversion Authority.

The newly formed Hardship Review Committee will consider applications and make recommendations to the Early Acquisition Subcommittee. If approved, applicants will be put on an early buyout list, but buyouts will be offered only when the Diversion Authority has the funding.

Cass County Administrator Keith Berndt said Thursday five applications had been received so far. However, only two are from residents who meet the criteria of having a medical condition and living in the affected area of the project.

There’s no timeline as to how swiftly the applications will be handled, but the Hardship Review Committee plans to meet within the next month to address the initial claims.

The committee of local leaders, administrators, project consultants and medical experts includes: Berndt, Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir, Clay County Administrator Brian Berg, Dr. John Baird of Fargo Cass Public Health and Chip Ammerman, director of Cass County Social Services.

Members of the Diversion Authority’s Land Management Committee are also reviewing a draft version of a detailed plan that will guide how land will be acquired for the Red River diversion project and how individual property owners might be compensated. The plan will be presented to the full Diversion Authority sometime this summer.

Officials expect land acquisitions to occur across several years ending no later than the end of 2018.

Excluding hardship cases, officials will start buyouts only after the $1.78 billion project is authorized by Congress, which isn’t expected until at least 2013.

According to the draft plan, officials are seeking to acquire land that affects 1,451 parcels and 831 individual property owners.

The land in question includes the diversion footprint itself and the controversial upstream staging area, where 1,116 parcels of land will be affected by temporary water storage south of the channel.

Land acquisition alone is estimated to make up

$255 million of the project’s cost.

Throughout the design, acquisition and construction phases of the project, officials will work from the northern end of the channel southward.

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

Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send a letter to the editor.