North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton agreed to form and co-chair a 16-member task force to correlate the two states different approaches to the flood control in order to protect the Fargo-Moorhead area Wednesday, Oct. 4. Eight representatives will be chosen from each state to serve on the board. The team is not meant to replace the current Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority, but instead provide collaboration between the states.
“Failure is not an option,” Dayton said. “There’s got to be flood protection for this growing region and the people around it.”
A dam aimed to divert the floodwater into a diversion channel was denied by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The governors agreed that the task force must find a solution to obtain a permit from the Minnesota DNR as well as satisfy the opponents of the project from upstream.
“Without a Minnesota permit, this project doesn’t go forward,” Burgum said.
The Minnesota DNR filed a suit against the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the group building the dam that would span the Red River and extend into Minnesota. They filed the suit because they refused to provide a permit for the project, citing that there are state policies for removing undeveloped land from the floodplain.
“Cooperation between the states should have occurred during the National Environment Policy Act process and as the Army Corps made their decisions,” associate professor of natural resources management Jack Norland said. The Corps stated that, being a federal agency, it is not subject to state environmental regulation.
Fargo Mayor and chairman of the Diversion Authority Tim Mahoney said that he was happy with Wednesday’s announcement of a two-state task force. “I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “This is where I hoped things would head. I’m optimistic that we can find a plan that is permissible in Minnesota.” Though the diversion causes many changes to the land along the river, some think of it in a different light.
“The impacts to the environment are in areas already experiencing disturbance from previous human activities,” Norland said. “Because many houses have been removed from the floodplain to reduce damage those areas are being restored to a more natural state by the city, county and other organizations.”
Dayton said he is hopeful the task force will make recommendations and complete its work within 60 days.