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Moorhead, Clay County seek participation from Minnesota leaders on F-M diversion talks

MOORHEAD - City and Clay County leaders are seeking Gov. Mark Dayton's help to reopen lines of communication between the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority and state regulators."It seems like now, more than ever, is the time we need you, (Departm...

Tom Landwehr, Minnesota DNR
Appointed January 2011

MOORHEAD - City and Clay County leaders are seeking Gov. Mark Dayton's help to reopen lines of communication between the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority and state regulators.

"It seems like now, more than ever, is the time we need you, (Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr), and the state of Minnesota to be present and active in these communications," said a Monday, July 10, letter to Dayton signed by Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams on behalf of herself and the City Council.

A letter with nearly identical wording dated two days later was signed by Commissioner Kevin Campbell on behalf of the Clay County Commission.

Williams and Campbell are both members of the Diversion Authority board.

The governor's office referred a request for comment from The Forum to the DNR on Friday, July 14. Landwehr said in an email the same day that he has not talked to Dayton about the matter.

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Though the DNR is suing the Authority to make it stop work on a diversion to protect the metro area from flooding, the two groups had agreed, at Williams' urging, to have their engineers hash out differences in a working group away from the legal and political conflict.

The DNR requires the Authority to have a dam permit, which the agency has refused to issue, and is unhappy that work continues on a component of the dam in North Dakota.

Landwehr abruptly ended the collaboration June 2. One stated reason was that the Authority's defense team was costing his agency too much money and he couldn't afford to use more staff time in meetings. The other reason was the continued work.

Williams' and Campbell's letters said city and county leaders understood that the working group was making a lot of progress. "It is because of these accounts that the DNR's decision to cease all communications with the working group came as a surprise and disappointment to us," the county letter said.

The diversion was not mentioned by name in either letter, though both expressed hope the DNR would continue to play a key role in flood protection.

The Moorhead City Council voted 5-2 July 10 to send the letter, with Council members Mari Dailey and Heidi Durand dissenting; Joel Paulsen was absent. The Clay County Commission voted unanimously July 11 to send the letter.

Landwehr stated Friday the reasons he laid out in his June 2 letter are still valid. "I don't see any value in starting the discussions again until we get guidance from the court, (which should be soon). Until we are clear on the authority of the State of Minnesota, we can't answer the hard questions."

A hearing on the legal matter has been scheduled Tuesday, July 18, before Chief Judge John R. Tunheim in Minneapolis.

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