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Published June 02 2012

Diversion Discussion: Array of farm-related issues yet to be decided

Members of the Diversion Authority’s new Agricultural Policy Subcommittee quickly discovered Wednesday night how much work they have ahead of them.

The group’s first meeting lasted more than two hours as members broached a variety of issues they hope to discuss in the months ahead.

Several committee members described Wednesday’s gathering as a valuable starting point for the board, which was formed in early May to address concerns from farmers who will be affected by plans for the Red River diversion.

The agricultural subcommittee includes representation from a half-dozen farmers on both sides of the Red River, as well as a few local government leaders and project consultants.

The Red River diversion project is expected to affect 8,000 acres in the channel’s footprint, and to temporarily affect as many as 54,700 additional acres in the project’s proposed water storage and staging areas.

Among questions the agricultural subcommittee hopes to answer in the months ahead:

• How will the Diversion Authority compensate farmers and rural property owners for impacts to their land?

• Will farmers have to sell their land for the project, or can they maintain ownership by agreeing to easements with the Diversion Authority?

• What type of insurance will cover farmland affected by the diversion project?

• What benefits might farmers see from the project, such as additional drainage?

• How could additional retention reduce the need and scope of the staging area?

Subcommittee members acknowledge the answers to those questions won’t come overnight, but they hope to chip away at the solutions during future meetings.

Although various studies by the Diversion Authority aim to reduce impacts from the project, subcommittee members acknowledged not all of the effects can or will be eliminated.

“Impacts to ag won’t change, other than maybe duration or percent of chance that you’ll be inundated by water,” subcommittee chairman Rodger Olson said.

He added there still needs to be a discussion about how to ease those impacts so the diversion is more palatable to those affected.

“We have not found any solution that will make this issue go away,” Fargo city engineer Mark Bittner said. “Help us come up with fair ways to deal with those impacts.”

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for June 20.

Join the “Diversion Discussion” at www.diversiondiscussion.areavoices.com.

Send an email to Forum reporter Kristen Daum at kdaum@forumcomm.com (Subject: Diversion Discussion)

or write to Kristen Daum c/o The Forum,

P.O. Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.