Dilworth, West Fargo unhappy about being left out of diversion talksFargo-Moorhead is abuzz over the idea of The Big Ditch – a Red River diversion channel to keep the two cities dry during major floods.
By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM
Fargo-Moorhead is abuzz over the idea of The Big Ditch – a Red River diversion channel to keep the two cities dry during major floods.
But as leaders of the two cities and Cass and Clay counties debate whether it should go in Minnesota or North Dakota, there’s one question leaders from Dilworth, and to a lesser extent, West Fargo, would like answered:
How come they haven’t been invited to the table yet?
As of Friday, neither of the two cities that may play permanent host to the diversion had a representative on the Metropolitan Flood Management Work Group.
The situation frustrates Dilworth Mayor Keith Coalwell.
When he looks at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maps, he sees a diversion channel up to a half-mile wide, ripping through the Ridgewood and Summerwood developments on the east edge of town. It would, for all practical purposes, box off development, Coalwell said.
A corps representative did meet with City Administrator Ken Parke on Thursday, three days after potential diversion plans were unveiled, he said.
“It’s awfully easy to sit on the board from Fargo, Moorhead, Cass County and have no skin in the game,” Coalwell said. “How hard of a decision would it be to make if you didn’t have any property involved in the diversion? … I didn’t see any plan that went right down 45th Street in Fargo.”
Coalwell wonders if the metro group has erred by not seeking wider input.
“If it comes time for the decision to be made, if you don’t involve the people who are affected, how do you know if you’ve made the right decision?” he asked.
West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern and City Administrator Jim Brownlee say they’re comfortable, so far.
They’ve met with corps officials, and the firm that does the city’s engineering work, Moore Engineering, did the flood-control studies for Fargo, which were given to the corps, so Mattern said he’s up to speed.
He wants in on the process if it appears the flood group wants a North Dakota diversion.
“We expect that if they pick the North Dakota side, that we’d be at the table,” Mattern said, adding they’d be “heavily involved.”
The co-chairmen of the local flood work group, Fargo City Commissioner Tim Mahoney and Clay County Commissioner Kevin Campbell, said determining who else should be part of the deliberations will be decided Nov. 5.
Until now, Mahoney said, the group has only included representatives from the groups paying for the corps’ Metropolitan Feasibility Study.
“Our smaller group is going to have to be listening or talking to Dilworth, or listening and talking to West Fargo,” Campbell said. “I don’t think we could make a recommendation to the larger group without hearing from them.”
Campbell added that the mayors of 28 surrounding cities, townships and rural subdivisions were told they could end up being involved in the deliberations in a letter inviting them to the Oct. 19 meeting on corps flood options.
The flood management work group is on a tight timeline set by the corps.
It must decide if the area is best served by a diversion or levees, in what state a diversion should be built, and how large it should be. That decision must be approved by leaders from cities and counties by Dec. 1.
The Dilworth City Council meets Monday and will discuss the issue then, Parke said.
Craig Evans, co-project manager for the corps’ Fargo-Moorhead flood control feasibility study, takes responsibility for the communication lapse.
“We should have contacted Dilworth,” Evans said. “That was an oversight on my part.”
Mattern has some advice he can offer early: He’s yet to hear anyone in West Fargo who wants the corps to tie a diversion into the Sheyenne Diversion.
A diversion farther west would be welcome, he said.
“Right now they get a lot of overland flooding out there and it’s tough to develop,” Mattern said. “If they wanted to go three miles out, I’d be a happy camper, but I’ll settle for a mile and a half.”
Given how a diversion would affect Dilworth, Parke said the city would be fine with diverting the Red to the west.
“Dilworth would definitely like to see it go into the North Dakota side,” Parke said.
If it has to go in Minnesota, “Dilworth is going to want to push it as far east as possible,” Parke said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583