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Cali Owings, Published October 28 2013

F-M Diversion Authority files motion to join Corps of Engineers in fighting lawsuit filed by diversion opponents

FARGO – The F-M Diversion Authority has filed a motion to join the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in fighting a lawsuit that could hinder the propose project.

In court documents filed Friday, the Diversion Authority requests to be considered a co-defendant in the lawsuit filed Aug. 19 by a group of diversion opponents. Diversion leaders say their participation in the suit is necessary to adequately represent the interests of the Red River Valley.

Without joining as co-defendants in the suit, Diversion Authority Chairman Darrell Vanyo said the group would be put in a position where “we have a vested interest in this and then we don’t know what’s happening.”

As the primary sponsor of the Fargo-Moorhead diversion project, the Diversion Authority wants a “seat at the table” to help make its case, Vanyo said.

During a meeting in September, the group voted unanimously to file a motion to intervene.

Its request will be considered during a hearing scheduled Nov. 26 in Duluth, Minn.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court by the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority, accuses diversion leaders of unnecessarily expanding the scope of the flood protection project, multiplying its estimated cost to $1.8 billion. The suit also claims the project will damage farmland south of the Fargo-Moorhead metro area, where water would collect in the event of a severe flood.

Defending the project could cost the Diversion Authority thousands of dollars in legal fees.

“It could be a little amount … or it could grow to be quite expensive,” Vanyo said. “Regardless, it’s still important for us to know firsthand versus secondhand what has transpired through these hearings.”

Perry Miller, chairman of the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority, said the Diversion Authority’s willingness to be named in a lawsuit is unusual.

“I’m curious as to why they would want to spend taxpayer money to be named as a defendant,” Miller said.

He said his group is not trying to stop the project, but to change the approach, calling the current diversion plans “a Fargo development plan disguised as flood control.”

“We need several components to make up a reasonable flood protection plan for the valley and that’s what we are going toward,” Miller said.

Despite the lawsuit, Vanyo said the Diversion Authority is moving forward with project design and setting the stage for land acquisition.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599