FARGO - A Fargo-Moorhead delegation is in Washington, D.C., this week to advocate for the proposed flood diversion after suffering a setback when Minnesota regulators opposed the project.
Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams said the group mostly provided information to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Office of Management and Budget.
She said the discussion included the upcoming vote in Fargo and Cass County to extend two sales taxes to pay the local share of the $2.2 billion project, as well as Minnesota regulators' denial of a permit for the diversion dam.
"I think they went well," Williams said. "It was a good discussion."
The delegation included Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney and executives from Microsoft and John Deere, among others. The Forum wasn't able to contact Mahoney for comment.
The corps has indicated it will push ahead with the project, despite the permit denial, to maintain momentum. Williams said officials there emphasized they will continue to work with Minnesota. At the OMB, which produces the president's budget, she said officials were mostly puzzled by Minnesota's decision.
A dam straddling the Red River is a key component of the diversion project because it would reduce the flow and prevent floodwater from overwhelming downstream communities. Minnesota regulators said the dam removes too much sparsely developed land from the flood plain. They suggested that Fargo-Moorhead can fight floods with new dikes and emergency measures such as sandbagging.
Fargo and Moorhead city leaders have said sandbagging is a risky way to fight floods.
Williams said the Fargo-Moorhead delegation will meet later this week with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and staff from the office of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. She said she met last week with staff from the office of Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., but isn't scheduled to visit with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., while in Washington. She said many members of Congress are out of town this week.
Diversion officials will find out if the diversion project continues to have the administration's support in January when the budget comes out, she said. The project received $5 million for this fiscal year and proponents hope for $65 million in the next, she said.
Williams said it's too early to tell if Congress will balk at funding the project given opposition from Minnesota.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who represents Moorhead and is close to Dayton, recently told the Star Tribune newspaper that he thought there would be trouble.