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Kyle Potter, Published February 13 2014

F-M diversion officials reject plan offered by project opponents

FARGO – Fargo-Moorhead diversion officials have brushed aside an alternate flood control proposal from project opponents south of Fargo.

The plan, unveiled by the MinDak Upstream Coalition and the Richland-Wilkin County Joint Powers Authority last month, calls for shifting the flood control project north and replacing the so-called “staging area” with a system to distribute water into reservoirs.

Group members say it would provide the same level of flood protection while eliminating the need for ring dikes around several communities.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials and members of the Diversion Authority acknowledged the alternate proposal Thursday, but said they’re sticking with their plan.

“Our plan is our plan. Our alignment is our alignment,” corps project manager Terry Williams said.

Nathan Berseth, a spokesman for the MinDak Upstream Coalition, said in an interview he was disappointed his group’s proposal was declared “dead on arrival” without a third-party study. He said they had received little to no response from diversion officials.

“We haven’t heard anything, which is their M.O.,” Berseth said.

During Thursday’s meeting, Williams said the corps discussed their position on the alternate proposal when Corps Brig. Gen. Duke DeLuca visited Fargo earlier this month and felt that was sufficient response.

Diversion supporters and opponents agree the coalition’s proposal was largely borrowed from an option the corps once studied only to reject it. The Diversion Authority is moving ahead with plans for a storage area south of Fargo, where water would collect during heavy floods to be fed into a 36-mile channel around the metro area.

The two sides disagree with the reasons behind that rejection.

Diversion officials say the alternate proposal would affect an estimated 200 more people than their current plan and add an extra $53 million to the cost of the $1.8 billion project.

Berseth argued their plan would, in fact, be cheaper. He countered – and a lawsuit in federal court alleges – that diversion officials selected their current plan in order to protect floodplains south of the metro for future development.

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