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Kyle Potter, Published August 16 2013

F-M diversion leaders work on plan to buy out more houses south of Fargo

FARGO – F-M diversion leaders are starting to lay out their game plan to buy out houses south of Fargo in order to make way for the massive flood protection project.

In the coming weeks, they should have a rough schedule on how to proceed with acquiring roughly 40 homes in Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke that will be displaced by a ring levee to be built around the three communities, said Keith Berndt, Cass County administrator and diversion official.

The Diversion Authority has set aside nearly $38 million in next year’s budget to buy out homes in the path of the levee, with some money also going toward homes that will be acquired in Fargo and Moorhead where in-town levees will be built.

“We’ve got a very challenging fiscal year ahead of us in terms of land to be acquired,” Berndt said at a diversion subcommittee meeting Friday.

Construction on the Oxbow ring levee is expected to start sometime next year, and will cost more than $65 million, including the tab for buyouts, Berndt said. But because that part of the $1.8 billion project will take three years to build, the homeowners may not need to move out for a few years, he said.

Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof said 27 of the 40 homeowners in the ring levee’s footprint have indicated they’d like to relocate. About half are asking for their homes to be moved, and the other half will rebuild.

“We’re looking at different ways just to bring the community back as fast as possible,” Nyhof said.

The Diversion Authority already owns three homes in Oxbow, each acquired since 2012 due to homeowners’ medical hardships. Two of those homes are being rented, and the third – which it officially acquired July 31 – is being prepped for rental, diversion consultant Eric Dodd said.

The Diversion Authority may soon add a fourth home to its portfolio – a bank-owned home in Oxbow now on the market. Berndt said the house has some infrastructure issues, making it a perfect fit for an early buyout.

The Early Acquisition Subcommittee gave the Cass County Joint Water Resources District the go-ahead to approach the bank about a sale. Berndt said an offer may be made sometime in the next few days.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Kyle Potter at (701) 241-5502