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Wendy Reuer, Published March 14 2013

Diversion Authority wants amendments removed

FARGO – Flood Diversion Board of Authority Board members expressed hope Thursday that amendments threatening funds for the proposed F-M Red River Diversion project will not pass the state Senate and become law.

During a monthly meeting Thursday, Authority board members warned upstream communities such as Oxbow, Bakke and Hickson that flood protection funding delays at the Legislature could mean at least a five-year wait for ring levees in those communities.

Some Diversion Authority members testified last Friday before the Senate appropriations committee on House Bill 1020. Amendments offered by House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, would prevent several years of state funding from being used for the

$1.8 billion project. The restrictions apply to

$100 million proposed for Fargo flood control projects over the next two years, as well as $45 million approved in 2009 and $30 million approved in 2011.

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proceeding with its internal review of a proposal to build a ring levee around the communities of Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke, construction on ring dikes would be halted if the amendments pass.

“The law that passed the House, if that would stand, we’re prohibited from spending any kind of public money on any kind of project for flood protection,” said Cass County Commissioner and Diversion Authority member Ken Pawluk.

Ring dike construction is a three-year project, and the soonest it could begin if the amendments are passed would be July 2015,

Pawluk said.

“That’s why it’s extremely important we get some of those amendments re-moved,” Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said.

The State Water Commission funding bill and its diversion-focused amendments passed the House by a 90-4 vote. Rocky Schneider, a public affairs strategist and diversion consultant, told the authority that passing the entire bill – a more than $500 million budget measure – was necessary by the House to keep it moving.

State Senate members can change the proposed amendments, Schneider said.

The bill is currently under review by a Senate subcommittee.

The diversion authority board will meet again April 25.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530