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Published June 16 2012

Diversion Discussion: Corps aims to inform contractors with industry workshop

FARGO - Wednesday is the deadline for contractors and suppliers to register for an upcoming workshop on the Red River diversion project.

The two-day event, sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, aims to inform businesses in the construction industry about the work that will be necessary to build various portions of the metro-area project.

With an almost $2 billion project on the line, it’s likely that many regional contractors will be eager for a bite at the apple.

As of Thursday, corps project manager Terry Williams said almost 30 contractors were registered for the event.

The workshop June 27 will include a project overview and detailed concepts of the various features in the first reach of design, which is near the channel outlet north of Argusville.

On June 28, the corps will provide information on requirements for businesses to contract with the federal government.

To kick off the event, the corps is also holding a public open house June 26. The event, from 6-8 p.m., will be similar to public meetings the corps held late last year to inform landowners about the latest design efforts.

For information on how to register for the corps’ industry workshop, visit www.fmdiversion.com and click the link under “Featured Content.”

Authority gives notice of accelerated funding

In the hopes of staying on track for a 2021 completion date, Diversion Authority officials have filed notice with the Army Corps that they’re willing to accelerate the project’s funding next year.

President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 pledged

$5 million in continued design funding for the Red River diversion project.

The Diversion Authority would be required to match that, but in order to stay on schedule, local officials say they want the option to spend more than that to continue design work next year.

As a procedural requirement, authority Chairman Darrell Vanyo sent a letter stating that intent this month to Col. Michael Price, the corps’ commander in St. Paul.

This summer, corps officials and diversion consultants are drafting their 2013 design agreement, which will spell out various achievements officials hope to accomplish in the next year of the project.

Vanyo’s letter will help officials craft a design agreement that could be more expansive than the $10 million worth of work that’s already expected.

“That’s just giving us the flexibility to look at other alternatives, without obligating the authority to do that,” diversion consultant Tom O’Hara said.

Fargo Administrator Pat Zavoral said a likely scenario would be that the Diversion Authority would match the $5 million in federal funds and then spend another $17 million of its own funds to keep the design work moving ahead.

Zavoral said diversion consultants are still determining exactly how to pay for the accelerated funding. The Diversion Authority board will get an update on the discussions during its July 12 meeting.

The Red River diversion project hasn’t yet received congressional authorization, which is necessary before funds can be appropriated for construction.

Members of Congress don’t expect authorization to come this year. It’s more likely – but not guaranteed – for 2014.

Protocol approved for deciding project issues

Diversion Authority members approved Thursday a general protocol for handling design issues or policy decisions that might affect the diversion’s cost, schedule or function.

Minimal technical issues will be determined behind the scenes by the diversion’s consultant team, but issues of greater import will be relayed to the public officials who sit on the Diversion Authority board.

Under the recommended protocol, technical and administrative staff will sift out any potential issues that meet certain criteria. That criteria includes issues:

• That have potentially significant cost or savings to the project.

• That pose significant changes to land requirements for the project.

• That change maintenance or operational requirements of the project.

• Or those that have a high level of public interest.

The project’s staff would then advise public officials up the chain-of-command through the authority’s various committees.

“This is to ensure we have a process in place for anything and all things we’re handling,” Authority Chairman Darrell Vanyo said Thursday.

Zavoral, Fargo’s city administrator, said there will be varying degrees of public input on these decisions, depending on the importance of the topic at hand.

An example that prompted the protocol was the determination of how wide excavated-material berms outside the diversion channel ought to be.

Officials have opted for a revised design, endorsed by the corps, which would minimize the amount of land needed for the project. The change protects as much as 1,000 acres of farmland.

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