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Dave Olson, Published October 11 2012

Diversion Authority postpones alignment choice

FARGO – The Flood Diversion Authority on Thursday voted 5-3 to postpone a decision on establishing the southern alignment of a proposed diversion project.

Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers let local officials know it favors an option – known as option A for short – that moves the southern diversion alignment about one mile farther north than the one currently in the federally recommended plan.

Corps officials said the impacts a diversion would have on Wilkin and Richland counties, which they said are already minimal, would be reduced even more under option A.

While a number of Diversion Authority members said they were ready to endorse option A Thursday, others said they wanted more time to discuss the subject with members of their respective boards and councils.

A decision on a southern alignment is expected at the board’s next meeting Nov. 8.

By then, authority members said they hope to have an indication from residents of the Cass County communities of Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke as to whether they favor the corps doing further study of a ring dike to protect their communities.

The three communities are in an area that would be used for water storage if a diversion project someday becomes operational.

The corps has been looking at home buyouts as the way to deal with the situation, but the agency recently announced it was open to the idea of a ring dike.

Corps officials said Thursday, however, that they don’t plan to spend time and resources on the question if the communities aren’t interested in a ring dike.

Diversion Authority Chairman Darrell Vanyo said officials in the three communities are aware of the corps’ willingness to consider a ring dike, but he said it isn’t clear how each community plans to gauge the wishes of its residents.

Also on Thursday, the Diversion Authority voted to endorse proposals presented by the corps last month that include levees and floodwalls for Fargo that would increase Red River flows through the city.

Those features would also reduce how often a diversion may have to be used as well as the length of time it would need to operate when it is used.

The Diversion Authority also endorsed the inclusion of gates on the diversion inlet, which would reduce upstream impacts and provide more flexibility in project operation.

In addition, the Diversion Authority voted to allocate $500,000 to the Red River Basin Commission.

Officials said the money will be put toward efforts to assess and prioritize potential retention projects in the region.

The funds will come out of $25 million the Diversion Authority has earmarked for retention projects.

Lance Yohe, executive director of the Basin Commission, told Diversion Authority members that the analysis the $500,000 will pay for will help them target their remaining retention dollars “for the best benefits.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555