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Forum editorial board, Published August 09 2012

Editorial: Diversion progress gratifying

The Red River diversion is not making the kind of headlines it did when it was first proposed and later won initial approval. But the project is making steady and impressive progress. It’s on schedule. It has met every deadline in the complicated multijurisdictional process that will culminate with the start of construction. It has cleared several hurdles regarding design, funding and government OKs.

Progress like that is no accident. Indeed, flood protection proposals of such size and expense usually take much longer to get to where the local diversion is today. So why the success in Fargo-Moorhead?

First, the enormity of the threat focused the attention of governments at all levels. An extraordinarily talented U.S. Army Corps of Engineers team went to work almost immediately after local governments agreed a diversion had to be the major feature of a comprehensive, permanent flood protection strategy. The work of the corps and private contractors working with the agency was so good that when the project was reviewed by higher-ups in the corps, it won quick approval.

In other words, the basic diversion concept, which will evolve as work proceeds, is sound and feasible.

As important, however, has been a remarkable coalition of local and regional governments that has been able to coalesce into the Diversion Authority. The members of the authority’s board have put in countless hours, mostly as volunteers, to develop a project that will protect Fargo-Moorhead and environs from the worst possible flood the Red River can deliver.

It’s been no easy task. Project opponents organized themselves and attacked every facet of the work, no matter how facile their arguments. Negotiating the federal bureaucracy was a nightmare. Securing funding from all potential sources – including advocating for local taxes – was of paramount concern.

All along the way, the corps, authority and associated agencies and private sector partners created success. And they did so despite a hostile barrage of sometimes uninformed attacks from project opponents.

The diversion is moving ahead. Earlier this week, the authority looked at timetables, design options, readily available money, future funding possibilities and immediate plans for next year. It looks good.

Given progress to date, members of the authority and others involved in the unprecedented public works project can be proud of their work. They don’t often get a pat on the back, but now and again they deserve one.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.