The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has not approved a permit application for the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Project, casting doubt over the contentious project.
Tim Mahoney, Fargo’s mayor, said the F-M Diversion Authority did not think this development would delay construction projects, which were scheduled to start this fall.
Del Rae Williams, Moorhead’s mayor, told the F-M Diversion Project, “Fargo-Moorhead continues to be at risk from flooding and we are working hard to find solutions for our citizens.
“We will keep working with the DNR to address their concerns and find a resolution.”
One of the three objections the DNR listed was that new dikes and emergency measures, like sandbagging, were satisfactory.
“How disappointed I am with the DNR’s recommendation that, instead of building the F-M Diversion Project, we are to continue deploying sandbags as our primary protection method in future flood events,” Mahoney said.
Other qualms the DNR listed included concerns for upstream communities, plans to reduce environmental harm and too much sparsely-developed land being protected.
Upstream opponents of the diversion celebrated the DNR’s ruling. The Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority sued the project, asking the courts for its stop.
Further judicial action may take place after the DNR’s ruling.
The Diversion Authority officials signed a project partnership with the corps in July to build the diversion, and corps official don’t have to obey state regulations as they are a federal agency.
Mahoney said, “Moving forward, we will continue working closely with our partners — the City of Moorhead and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers — on this project.”
F-M Diversion Project reported,“The DNR concluded today that the permit application needs additional consideration to meet public safety requirements, be consistent with state and local land use, and more adaptive management methods need to be enhanced to bring the mitigation plan into compliance with Minnesota state requirements.”
The Forum reported that the DNR,“Believes that $2.2 billion diversion project protects too much ‘sparsely-developed’ rural land that could otherwise be allowed to flood naturally,” and “by displacing floodwater farther south the dam harms those who normally don’t see flooding.”
The project “will establish permanent flood protection measures for the region,” the F-M Diversion Project reported. As of March 2016 the total cost of the project was roughly $2.1 billion.
Fargo and Cass County voters are still expected to decide in November whether to extend a 1.5 cent sales tax to help fund the project.
Mahoney likened it to a referendum, The Forum reported.
“We will not entrust the safety of our residents and our billions of dollars in property to sandbagging and temporary protection efforts. We require a better barrier than plastic between us and a rising river,” Mahoney said.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, an outspoken critic of the diversion, said in a statement on Monday, “While 60 percent of the lands newly flooded by this project would be in Minnesota, we would receive only 14 percent of its benefits. North Dakota would receive 86 percent of the benefits, while hosting only 40 percent of the newly flooded land.”
“Seeing just how close we came to utter devastation, I cannot accept maintaining the status quo,” Mahoney said.