Kyle Potter, Published July 11 2013
Diversion board may look at airing meetings in MoorheadFARGO – Mayor Dennis Walaker on Thursday fought back against the perception that local diversion leaders haven’t done enough to keep the public up-to-date on changes to the project.
In a frustrated speech during a monthly meeting of the Flood Diversion Board of Authority, Walaker said the board has “provided adequate information to the public” about progress on the proposed 36-mile channel that would divert floods around the metro area.
“The information is there if people want it, and we’ll make efforts again to try to get it to them,” he said.
That may mean broadcasting diversion board meetings on public television in Moorhead, an idea floated during Thursday’s meeting. Diversion consultant Eric Dodds said the meetings have been broadcast on public TV in Fargo since the authority’s conception.
Streaming meetings on the Internet may also be an option, Dodds said.
Moorhead City Councilwoman and authority member Nancy Otto said the communication issues are real and extend to elected officials in the metro area.
Otto reiterated the Moorhead City Council’s desire to get a quarterly update from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other diversion leaders, and said other Moorhead city officials are already working to schedule those update sessions.
Otto said better communication will be the key to tackling what she called “misconceptions” about the diversion and its necessity to help protect the area from a 500-year flood.
The diversion board will soon set its budget for the coming year with the ability to spend an extra $30 million on design. The extra capacity for design costs, which have already hit
$30 million, required approval of the diversion’s local sponsors – a proposal some members of the Moorhead City Council had opposed.
Chief among the concerns in Moorhead was how Minnesota will cover its share of the project. Some Moorhead council members say they worry that the state won’t come through, ultimately leaving the city liable for the costs.
Moorhead City Councilman Mark Hintermeyer said at a City Council meeting Monday that the state Legislature won’t engage until Congress authorizes the project.
The U.S. Senate authorized the diversion in May, but it’s still awaiting authorization in the House.
The project will cost an estimated $1.8 billion total, with about $810 million to be covered by the federal government.
The Diversion Authority is expected to discuss its budget in August and then take it up for approval at its September meeting.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Kyle Potter at (701) 241-5502