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Kyle Potter, Published June 26 2013

Proposed changes to F-M diversion upset landowners

FARGO – Proposed modifications to the path of the Fargo-Moorhead diversion have rankled some area property owners whose homes could be displaced by the new route.

About 100 residents turned out at the Fargo Civic Center on Tuesday night to learn about planned changes to how the 36-mile channel will divert floodwaters west of the metro area.

Leaders from the Diversion Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expect the modifications will cut $59 million from the project, which has an estimated $1.8 billion price tag. Diversion Authority Chairman Darrell Vanyo said the altered route – revised since the initial plan was released in July 2011 – will be “the least costly and have the least impact.”

Marty Johnson, of Stanley Township, said the proposed route will force him out of the farm just south of Horace that’s been in his family since his great-grandfather built it in 1897.

Johnson said he didn’t learn about the proposed changes until reading a notice in the paper.

“You couldn’t come visit me? You couldn’t come talk to me? You just drew the line in the sand and said live with it?” he asked.

Terry Williams, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said they sent out notifications about the proposed changes and the scheduled meetings to discuss the new plan and gather feedback.

Aaron Snyder, another Army Corps project manager, said the authority started public meetings on the proposed alignment changes in September. A map showing all of those changes was posted online in December.

“Nothing in this document should be new to the public,” Snyder said.

The Diversion Authority hosted another open house meeting Wednesday night for residents around the northern chunk of the project at the Harwood Community Center.

Mark Brodshaug, chairman of the Southeast Cass Water Resource District, said any land acquisitions that are made as part of the diversion will not start until after federal authorization of the project.

The U.S. Senate approved the project in May, but it has yet to receive authorization from the House.

Once the project receives federal authorization, the corps would begin defining the right of way. Properties would be appraised based on existing conditions of the land. Brodshaug said if negotiations failed, the eminent domain process could be used.

“It’s the intent of the Diversion Authority as well as the joint resources board to use eminent domain as a very last resort,” Brodshaug said.

Among the proposed changes to the diversion channel include pushing the staging area about 1½ miles north and digging the channel about 5 feet deeper and 50 feet wider on average than originally planned.

The diversion’s route would be much straighter and could be as much as a mile farther west alongside the Sheyenne Diversion.

Details about the proposed changes are online at fmdiversion.com. Authorities are taking public comment on the changes until July 15.

The Diversion Authority is expected to approve the new route sometime in August.

Forum Reporter Wendy Reuer contributed to this report.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kyle Potter at (701) 241-5502