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Published June 26 2012

Diversion open house draws crowd

FARGO – Area residents were eager to get a peek Tuesday night at the initial design plans for the Red River diversion project.

Dozens of area residents attended an open house put on by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority.

Several maps, renderings and graphics were on display so residents could see what the first designed portion of the channel might look like, based on about 65 percent of the design work complete.

Reach 1 starts at the diversion’s outlet near Georgetown, Minn., and extends a little more than four miles upstream along the channel.

Project consultants with the Diversion Authority and the corps are designing the 35-mile channel piecemeal, beginning on the northern end and working southward. The project – once authorized and funded by Congress – will also be constructed in that order.

The designs that residents saw Tuesday should go before the Diversion Authority next month, but they won’t be officially complete until April 2013, based on the corps’ timeline.

Residents who came to the open house Tuesday night generally had questions about the features of the project and what the different graphs meant, corps project manager Brett Coleman said.

“People mostly want to know: How is this going to affect me?” Coleman said.

Today and Thursday, regional contractors will look over the same materials, while also talking with the corps about different ways or methods to construct the project.

Coleman said that when residents or contractors suggest ideas that might improve the project, the corps will take them under consideration.

“We want to make the best project possible,” he said.

Under the current timeline, local officials hope the $1.8 billion project is complete by 2021. However, that depends on whether Congress chooses to authorize and then fund the project, which likely won’t happen until 2013 at the earliest.

In the interim, the corps and authority consultants are designing the project, so that portions of it will be ready for construction, assuming Congress comes through on its part.

In anticipation for the construction phase, corps engineers plan to hold another public meeting as early as this winter to talk land acquisition with landowners who’ll be impacted by construction of the outlet structure and Reach 1.

That meeting will address the lands required to construct and operate that area of the project, and landowners will also be briefed on acquisition plans and rules.

The Diversion Authority has a draft land management plan in the works, but it has not yet been approved by the board.

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