FARGO — Officials jotted their signatures to a deal that adds $300 million in federal support to a project partnership agreement that is a crucial document for the $2.75 billion flood diversion project.
The ceremony on Tuesday, March 19, at City Hall came as officials keep a wary eye on forecasts showing that Fargo-Moorhead faces a 10-percent chance of fighting a Red River flood comparable to the record 2009 crest, 40.84 feet.
“It’s not a question of if we’re going to flood,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who helped secure the increased federal money for the project. “It’s when and how much.”
With the $300 million addition in federal support, announced recently by Hoeven, federal commitment for the flood control project stands at $750 million. Officials aim to build the project, with a channel to carry floodwaters around the metro area, through a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership they say will help make the project more cost-effective.
“It’s creating a lot of firsts that I think will be followed nationally,” Hoeven said.
Along with the additional $300 million slated for the project, the diversion is eligible for funds from a $150 million federal pool of money for creative, public-private infrastructure projects, the senator said.
Also, legislation is advancing that would support the diversion by reducing local financing costs, Hoeven said.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said the signed partnership is just one of a series of developments signalling that the diversion is gaining momentum.
“Today’s a big day,” he said, noting that it took a complex set of negotiations that modified the diversion’s design, enabling it to secure a permit from Minnesota regulators.
The diversion will protect $20 billion in property and a fifth of North Dakota’s population, including more than 50,000 elementary, secondary and college students, the governor said. “This benefits Minnesota, it benefits North Dakota,” he said.
The funding focus now shifts to Bismarck, where North Dakota legislators are considering a request to increase the state’s support for the diversion by $300 million, from $570 million to $870 million.
“We’ve got a lot of momentum on this project,” Burgum said. “Let’s keep it going.”
Minnesota is being asked to provide $86 million for flood protection projects associated with the diversion, with half slated for projects in the city of Moorhead and the other half in rural areas, said Kevin Campbell, a Clay County commissioner and Diversion Authority board member.
The diversion now has been endorsed by three of the four counties comprising the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District, which is contesting the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ permit for the project, he said.