MOORHEAD — Army Corps of Engineers biologists explained to landowners in Minnesota about how they plan in 2020 to resume studying the health of rivers, fish, clams and bugs as the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion project planning and construction continues.
Biologist Derek Ingvalson said they are gathering information on the Red River, Buffalo River and Wolverton Creek in Clay and Wilkin counties.
The two types of monitoring that will continue in the final round of pre-construction work are called biotic and geomorphic.
Ingvalson explained that the biotic or biological monitoring involves the study of the fish, clams and bugs and will help them to understand if there are any "impacts" during and after construction.
He said there have been two studies already in 2011-12 and 2017.
What they found in earlier studies is that there were 12 to 18 fish species in the Red River, mostly channel cats and carp. In Wolverton Creek, they found 12 species, including bullheads and sunfish.
There were 14 sites labeled "fair" in habitat quality, while there were six found to be "poor."
He said the plan for the landowners who are being asked to sign "right of entry" agreements for next year for biotic monitoring, mostly done by boat, are three visits by crews of two to three people in the spring, summer and fall.
The geomorphic monitoring, explained by biologist John Sobiech who has been working on the project since 2008, involves looking at rivers and streams to document width, depth, flows, bed and bank stability, vegetation and depth of sediment flood deposits.
It's done to basically determine if the diversion will have any impacts on the landscape.
This monitoring has also been done twice in 2011-12 and 2018, with the final study in 2020 involving three visits, too.
Jessica Warren, project manager with the AE2S engineering firm, said there are 425 parcels they are studying in the final phase, with 78 left in Minnesota. The other parcels were in North Dakota, with the biotic and geomorphic studies done in 2017 along the Red, Maple, Rush, Lower Rush and Sheyenne rivers.
She explained that the right of entry agreements are not easements, which could possibly be asked for later. The right of entry is just allowing the Army Corps of Engineers geologists and biologists to enter the land for the three visits.
Warren also said these two types of studies don't involve soil boring, which is part of a different study for the design of the diversion basically to find if there is sandy soil that could affect work.
There are also cultural and historic building surveys where crews walk over property and look for buffalo teeth or bones to see if there is possibly a prehistoric village or other findings. Other types of studies are land surveys and hazardous, toxic and radioactive waste surveys.
Most of the biotic and geomorphic studies planned for Minnesota are north and south of Comstock near the Clay-Wilkin county line.
Landowners on the Minnesota side, many of whom oppose the diversion project, are being asked to sign the right of entry agreements or face possible court action.
An earlier request for some studies in Clay County required the county commissioners to vote on 17 properties where the owners had failed to sign agreements and now face possible court action. Some of the 17 since have signed agreements that will allow for additional studies to help diversion designers determine exact locations and specifications for project features such as the southern embankment and necessary road raises.