FARGO - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded its first contract for work on the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion, according to Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D.
Heitkamp said in a news release the $46 million contract to Ames Construction marks the start of federal construction on the $2.2 billion project to protect the metro area from a 100-year flood.
The contract is for the inlet structure near Horace that will be part of a 12-mile long dam straddling the Red River, which will reduce the flow of flood water into the 30-mile diversion channel, the corps said. Ames Construction is a Burnsville, Minn., firm.
The corps expects groundbreaking to start in spring 2017.
Earlier this year, the corps agreed to contribute $450 million to the project. The state of North Dakota, and Fargo and Cass County sales taxes will pay the rest.
"Today's contract is a big step toward permanent flood protection for the entire region," Hoeven said in a news release. "The snowstorm currently moving through North Dakota is a reminder that too much moisture at the wrong time can cause significant flooding in the spring. We cannot settle for emergency measures."
That's a reference to Minnesota regulators' position that Fargo-Moorhead doesn't need the diversion because new dikes and emergency measures, such as sandbagging, should be enough. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has denied a permit for a dam, though talks are ongoing with the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority.
The state of North Dakota has agreed to permits for the dam.
Upstream opponents of the project, the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority, have asked a federal judge to halt all work on the project because of the DNR's permit denial.