Minnesota officials says revised diversion plan looks better
By DAVE KOLPACK, Associated Press
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A revised Red River flood diversion plan “goes a long ways” toward solving problems that have halted the project designed to protect the Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, area from chronic flooding, the head of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Monday.
DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr made the comments after the agency released a supplemental environmental impact statement on the so-called Plan B proposed by the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority. The DNR in October 2016 denied a permit for the original project, leading a federal judge to stop construction that had started southwest of Fargo.
The new plan is meant to reduce impacts to land in Richland County in North Dakota and Minnesota’s Wilkin County that’s located in a staging area that would hold excess water in times of serious flooding. Landwehr said 8,000 fewer acres will be inundated under the new proposal, thanks in part to a decision to move more water through the river channel.
Landwehr said the DNR rejected the original plan primarily because of the amount of land taken out of the flood plain, the balance of impacts and benefits, and insufficient plans to reduce the project’s harmful effects.
“Yes, the proposed Plan B goes a long ways toward addressing … those issues,” Landwehr said.
Landwehr said the DNR will likely decide on a permit application this winter, but added that the timeline is not clear. Public comments on the environmental review are being accepted until Sept. 27.
“The big question is how much additional work we’ll do based on the public comments we have,” Landwehr said.
Diversion authority officials have said the changes to the project, currently estimated at $2.2 billion, could add an additional $400 million to the price tag. The authority is hoping to pay for the diversion with a combination of public and private financing.
Fargo mayor and diversion authority chairman Tim Mahoney said the DNR report looks positive and he’s hopeful it will lead to a permit.
“We’re very pleased,” Mahoney said. “Plan B looks like it should move forward.”
A public meeting to discuss the project with DNR and Army Corps of Engineers officials is scheduled Sept. 13 in Moorhead.