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Governors’ diversion task force includes staunch supporters, outspoken opponents of project

FARGO - The governors of North Dakota and Minnesota have named members of a task force aimed at seeking compromise on the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion, and it includes several people who have opposed the project.

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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announced the formation of a flood control task force after discussing Fargo-Moorhead diversion issues at Moorhead City Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO – The governors of North Dakota and Minnesota have named members of a task force aimed at seeking compromise on the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion, and it includes several people who have opposed the project.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, for example, appointed Richland County Commissioner Nathan Berseth, a spokesman for the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority (JPA), upstream counties that filed suit against the $2.2 billion project. Meanwhile, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Tim Fox, former Wilkin County attorney and a JPA advisor.

The 16-member task force, with eight members from each state, will meet for the first time at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 23, at the Fargodome, and the task force is scheduled to release recommendations Dec. 15, according to statements Burgum’s and Dayton’s offices issued Wednesday, Oct. 18.

“Working closely with our Minnesota neighbors, we’re optimistic we can achieve a timely solution that protects lives, property and the economic engine that is the Fargo-Moorhead region from catastrophic flooding while also addressing upstream and downstream concerns,” Burgum said in a statement.

“There is broad agreement that the Fargo-Moorhead region needs a permanent solution for flood risk management,” Dayton said in a statement. “However, it is also essential that any solution meet the requirements of Minnesota Law and reflect the input of all affected Minnesotans.”

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Minnesota regulators earlier denied a permit for a dam that would be part of the diversion, and they have since filed suit, joining the JPA. A federal judge issued an injunction in September, halting the project for the time being and setting the stage for a compromise.

Other task force members appointed by Burgum include:

  • Cass County Engineer Jason Benson, who works for the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority, the local sponsors of the project.
  • Fargo businessman Ron Bergan, who served on a committee that worked on early diversion plans.
  • Bernie Dardis, chairman of the Greater North Dakota Chamber and a partner in Fargo-based Indigo Signworks.
  • Richland County farmer Craig Hertsgaard, a member of the FM Upstream Coalition, a group opposed to the diversion.
  • Tami Norgard, a Fargo attorney specializing in environmental law.
  • Fargo City Commissioner John Strand; the city is a member of the Diversion Authority along with Moorhead, Cass County and Clay County.
  • Grand Forks City Council member Ken Vein, who was city engineer during the 1997 flood that devastated his city.

Other task force members appointed by Dayton include:

  • Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams, vice chairwoman of the Diversion Authority.
  • Moorhead City Council member Heidi Durand, a vocal opponent of the diversion project.
  • Moorhead City Council member Joel Paulsen.
  • Clay County Commissioner Jenny Mongeau, who has raised concerns about the diversion’s effect on her constituents.
  • Mark Anderson, treasurer for the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District; the district is a former Diversion Authority member but has since pulled out.
  • Hendrum Mayor Curt Johannsen; his city, located in Norman County, is downstream of the diversion, and concerns about downstream impact led to the design of the dam that upsets upstream landowners.
  • Norman County Commissioner Steve Jacobson.
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