Dayton invited to discuss proposed F-M diversion with local business leaders
MOORHEAD – The president of the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce is inviting Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to meet with local business leaders to hear about their support for the proposed flood diversion.
Craig Whitney on Monday wrote Dayton a letter inviting him to meet with some of the regional business group’s 2,100 members, which collectively employ 94,000 people.
“Because we understand the threat of future flood events is unavoidable, The Chamber has organized a task force of business leaders committed to cutting through the media-perpetuated rhetoric, to support effective flood protection,” Whitney wrote in his letter to Dayton.
Matt Swenson, Dayton’s press secretary, said Tuesday that the governor has not received Whitney’s letter. Earlier, Swenson said Dayton is open to meeting with local leaders in Minnesota, a suggestion recently made by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple.
Dalrymple’s suggestion came after Swenson issued a statement earlier this month saying the Minnesota governor and his administration will “do everything to ensure that Minnesota’s best interests are not trampled” by the proposed $1.8 billion Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion, which has spurred significant opposition from upstream landowners and officials.
Wilkin County in Minnesota and Richland County in North Dakota joined together to file a federal lawsuit to block construction of a feature of the diversion that would temporarily store water over 32,500 acres in the event of a severe flood.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources joined that lawsuit after the Diversion Authority started building a ring dike this summer to protect the upstream Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke communities south of Fargo.
The purpose of a meeting with Dayton is not confrontational, Whitney said, but to present information about the diversion. Citing census figures, Whitney said 60 percent of Moorhead residents cross the Red River every day to work in Fargo or West Fargo.
“It’s a complicated project,” Whitney said. “The opposition out there obviously works day and night on this. It’s an opportunity (for Dayton) to hear firsthand from the people on the ground who have been involved in this project.”
Flood protection is a top priority of the local business community, and business leaders repeatedly have spoken publicly of the need to protect jobs and investment, Whitney said.