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Diversion opponents release poll putting pressure on Moorhead leaders

FARGO - Opponents of the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion have released a poll intended to put pressure on city leaders in Moorhead, which has become the weakest link in the coalition working to build the project.

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FARGO – Opponents of the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion have released a poll intended to put pressure on city leaders in Moorhead, which has become the weakest link in the coalition working to build the project.

The MinDak Upstream Coalition said in a report of the poll results that 63 percent of the 405 Moorhead residents interviewed think Fargo would benefit more from the project.

Sixty-six percent think it should be halted until disputes with surrounding communities have been settled.

The Forum requested actual poll data but had not received it as of press time. The coalition report didn't have a margin of error, but spokesman Nathan Berseth said it was 4.9 percent. He said Telos Associates, a West Fargo firm, did the polling.

"I think it shows the support for elected officials that have questioned the process the diversion has taken, that they have the support of Minnesota residents," he said.

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"It says the Kevin Campbells and the Nancy Ottos that have blindly supported this project regardless of their constituents say, regardless of what Minnesota law states, that they don't have the support," he said, naming the Clay County commissioner and City Council member, respectively, who represent their governments on the Fargo-Moorhead Flood Diversion Board of Authority.

But the poll seems to target Mayor Del Rae Williams in particular and not Otto or Campbell.

When asked if they approved of Williams' job performance, 44 percent said "approve" and 56 percent said "disapprove/unsure," according to the coalition report. But when asked if they approved of Williams' handling of the diversion issue, 25 percent said "approve" and 75 percent said "disapprove/unsure."

Without full poll results, it was impossible to determine how many actually disapprove and how many didn't know enough to answer the question. Berseth was asked to clarify but didn't have an answer as of press time.

Williams said she wasn't "fazed" by the poll results. Diversion opponents just want her to denounce the project, she said, but that's unwise because there isn't enough information yet to do that, and the project may benefit Moorhead.

The mayor has never been a full-throated supporter of the project, maintaining that Moorhead is on higher ground than Fargo and therefore less vulnerable.

"She hasn't been an outspoken critic or proponent of it, but sometimes silence can speak volumes," Berseth said.

But, more than ever, she and her city are in a delicate position. Moorhead and Clay County are members of the Diversion Authority, but the state of Minnesota has taken the authority to task for failing to wait for a state environmental review before starting work on a ring dike in Oxbow, N.D., that it says is linked to the project. State officials have said local governments must not take a position contrary to the state.

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