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Minnesotans at forum favor North Dakota diversion

A cost-benefit ratio analysis showing Minnesota offers the cheapest route for a flood control diversion but North Dakota getting the bulk of the benefits added spice to a public forum Wednesday.

A cost-benefit ratio analysis showing Minnesota offers the cheapest route for a flood control diversion but North Dakota getting the bulk of the benefits added spice to a public forum Wednesday.

Politically, it's a bit like trying to move water uphill, participants in the forum conducted by the Red River Basin Commission appeared to agree.

The commission is conducting a series of public meetings to gather input for comprehensive flood control recommendations to offer officials in North Dakota and Minnesota.

The process is separate from planning conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has issued its initial findings for flood control options to protect Fargo-Moorhead.

That analysis concluded the most cost-effective routes for a diversion channel to protect the metro area are in Minnesota, although North Dakota would receive 90 percent of the benefits.

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"Politically, that's counterintuitive," said Rep. Paul Marquart, D-Dilworth. "It doesn't make sense."

But doing nothing is not an option, the former Dilworth mayor added. "We're going to have to get beyond that," Marquart said, referring to the political obstacles.

Several participants in the meeting, which drew 50 to 60 people at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead, noted that public support for a North Dakota diversion appears greater on both sides of the river.

But Aaron Snyder, who represented the corps at the meeting, made clear that in order to qualify for federal assistance the cost-benefit test must be met.

Officials are exploring to see if additional information would allow a North Dakota diversion to meet the corps' cost-benefit requirement.

Marc Nokken of Moorhead was one of the most vocal in expressing frustration over the gap between the greater public support for a North Dakota diversion, but the federal cost analysis favoring Minnesota.

"The federal government will walk away from us if we're off by 8 bucks," he said. "I don't feel like we're getting ... whatever."

Kevin Campbell, a Clay County commissioner and co-chairman of a flood control working group of local officials, agreed with Marquardt that doing nothing is not an option.

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Without action, flood damage estimates range from $6 billion to $7 billion, he said.

"We haven't stopped and we aren't going to stop until hopefully we get it right for this community," Campbell said.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said the solution must win support in St. Paul, since significant state funding also will be required.

"We're going to be asking them for huge sums of money," Lanning said.

If you go

  • What: Red River Basin Commission long-term flood solution forum.
  • When: 6:30 to 8:30 tonight
  • Where: Harwood (N.D.) Elementary School, 110 Freedland Drive.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

Related Topics: FARGO-MOORHEAD DIVERSION
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