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Published October 30, 2009, 12:00 AM

Forum finds support for North Dakota diversion

HARWOOD, N.D. – Many people who spoke out at a public forum on flood control here Thursday favor a Red River diversion channel through North Dakota, despite its higher price tag.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

HARWOOD, N.D. – Many people who spoke out at a public forum on flood control here Thursday favor a Red River diversion channel through North Dakota, despite its higher price tag.

LeRoy Johnson, who lives north of West Fargo, on what he calls “the wet side” of the Sheyenne diversion, said he is tired of fighting floods.

“It floods almost every year, it’s just terrible,” he said.

Johnson said he pays $1,745 a year in flood insurance, adding that if others pay about the same, “that’d go a long way to pay for this diversion.”

People who live in the Harwood area would not see any benefits from a flood control diversion through Minnesota, but at this point, there aren’t enough benefits for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to recommend a diversion through North Dakota, which would help protect the area.

Between 150 and 160 people showed up for the Red River Basin Commission public forum to tell their flood stories and learn about diversion options.

The commission plans to share its findings from a series of public forums with lawmakers.

“The truth is, we all live in the bottom of a glacial lake,” said Lance Yohe, Red River Basin Commission executive director. “Now what we have to do is figure out how to live in the bottom of the lake and not have to worry about floods year after year.”

Many audience members’ questions revolved around how the corps determines its cost-benefit ratio – the calculation that, at this point, favors a diversion through Minnesota.

Aaron Snyder, who represented the corps at the meeting, said the North Dakota diversion is challenging because it would cross a number of Red River tributaries.

While a diversion through Minnesota would not benefit the Harwood area, Snyder said it wouldn’t hurt, either.

“If you’re wet now, you’ll continue to be wet in the future, but we’re not going to make your flooding worse,” he said.

There is a chance local leaders can opt for the diversion through North Dakota.

The majority of funding for the diversion would come from the federal government.

If the corps determines there are enough benefits for a diversion through North Dakota, but the Minnesota route is cheaper, the federal government would cover its share of the Minnesota plan and local governments would have to foot the rest of the bill.

The diversion through Minnesota is expected to cost about $962 million, with the federal government paying about

$630 million. The diversion through North Dakota is expected to cost between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion.

To Gary Martin of rural Harwood, who fought through five weeks of flooding, the price tag is worth it.

“We’ve got to suck up the $400 million as a group,” he said. “If not, we’re going to be suffering.”

The soonest the diversion would likely be built is 2016, Snyder said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526

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