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Published February 03, 2010, 12:00 AM

Residents weigh in on diversion plans

Fargo and Moorhead may need flood protection from major Red River floods, but rural residents told Army Corps of Engineers officials Tuesday they don’t want to face more water because of it.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

Fargo and Moorhead may need flood protection from major Red River floods, but rural residents told Army Corps of Engineers officials Tuesday they don’t want to face more water because of it.

“I don’t think you’ve adequately described how the downstream impacts will affect us,” said Hendrum, Minn., Mayor Curt Johannsen. “Even an inch or two (more water downstream) would be catastrophic, and 10 inches would be too much.”

Johannsen said he felt the Minnesota and North Dakota diversion channels would hurt small towns and others who had to deal with higher water during big spring floods.

“There’s so many more answers to this” other than a diversion, he said.

Johannsen was among more than 350 people who turned out for a corps presentation at the Fargo Civic Center on how six diversion plans could protect the F-M area from major floods. Corps officials also discussed the costs and effects downstream.

Craig Evans and Aaron Snyder, the project’s co-managers, laid out the problems – engineering, environmental and political – that lie ahead.

The diversion with the best return on investment for the nation moves 20,000 cubic feet of water per second east of Moorhead in Minnesota. With risk costs figured into the price, it has a price tag of $871 million, with a local cost of $305 million.

The corps says it will push to have a 35,000-cubic-feet-per-second Minnesota diversion declared the best deal. Evans said that can’t be done for either of two North Dakota options.

The most expensive plan is a $1.3 billion diversion in North Dakota that would move 35,000 cubic feet of water around the metro area. The local cost could be $730 million.

One man said calling the small Minnesota diversion the best deal is “kind of like putting three tires on a car” and trying to make it drive.

“It is an inadequate plan,” he said.

Eric Richman, who lives near Argusville, N.D., said “there will be thousands of people outside this protection that will be affected” by higher water. Many will need ring dikes, which can easily run $50,000, he said.

“There are houses that barely made it last year,” Richman said. “I’m worried we’re just pushing this problem somewhere else.”

Richman says if a diversion must be built, put it in Minnesota where it will be much cheaper. “Save the $350 million and spend it on something else.”

A similar meeting takes place tonight on the campus of Minnesota State University Moorhead. (See accompanying “If you go” information).

Corps officials are also meeting this morning with federal, Minnesota and North Dakota natural resources and environment officials at the Fargo Public Library.

Corps officials said the meeting will be closed to encourage a free discussion of issues among staffers from the agencies involved. They declined a Forum request to allow a reporter into the meeting.

Jon Sobiech, a corps environmental specialist, said environmental impacts will be discussed; among them, the impact on fish movement in the Red River and its tributaries. Also, the corps’ “first crack at mitigation costs” will be offered, Sobiech said.

Sobiech said the project is made even more complex because the two states are in two different regions for many agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fargo-Moorhead area officials must say in writing by April 15 which diversion plan is the one supported locally.

If you go

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosts the second of two public forums tonight to present the results of studies on Red River diversion alternatives for Fargo and Moorhead and to take public input.

  • When: The meeting is from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Hansen Theatre in the Minnesota State University Moorhead Center for the Arts, 801 13th St. S.

  • What: The meeting begins with an open house at 6 p.m., and a presentation at 7 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer period.

  • Where to watch: Tonight’s meeting will be streamed on the city of Moorhead’s Web site at www.cityofmoorhead.com/flood. Moorhead Community TV will also broadcast the meetings on CableOne Channel 12. See local listings for times.

  • Fargo’s CableOne TV Channel 12 will broadcast the meeting

    at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and at 11 a.m. Saturdays.

  • A meeting Tuesday in Fargo will be available to view on the city Web site at www.cityoffargo.com after noon today.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583