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Red diversion project keeps evolving

WEST FARGO - Living along the Red River in far south Moorhead, Wendy and Brad Buth thought they -didn't have to worry about effects from a North Dakota-side diversion.

WEST FARGO - Living along the Red River in far south Moorhead, Wendy and Brad Buth thought they ­didn't have to worry about effects from a North Dakota-side diversion.

That was, until they learned a week ago that their home lies within the proposed staging area at the upstream end of the project.

That knowledge raised concerns with the couple, who were among nearly 200 area residents seeking answers and information during a community meeting here with Army Corps of Engineers officials Thursday night. On Wednesday, about 400 people attended a similar meeting in Kindred.

The various evolutions of the diversion project - which has been in the making for two years already - have created a complicated and, at times, conflicting journey that's drawn a host of opponents for various reasons.

Among the most recent opponents have been West Fargo city leaders and a host of upstream communities, who are concerned about detrimental impacts they'd see from the project that's aimed mostly at protecting the Fargo-Moorhead metro area. Many area residents voiced anger and frustration that rural communities have had little to no say, compared with the project's official sponsors, Fargo and Moorhead.


"This plan is fair for one town and one town only, and it's Fargo, North Dakota," Horace resident Marty Johnson said, to applause from the audience.

West Fargo Commissioner Mark Simmons reiterated his city's desire to have the diversion's alignment moved westward and called on Fargo officials to publically support the effort.

"I just want some assurances that when we get to the design stage, when I turn around you're going to be there," he said.

Fargo Deputy Mayor Tim Mahoney and Commissioner Brad Wimmer said they'd back West Fargo, but their primary goal is to secure the diversion.

West Fargo's request to shift the alignment would allow for more room to develop and also alleviate fears of potential problems if the project tied into the existing Sheyenne Diversion, as is proposed.

Corps officials said there'll be time for public input this summer and the diversion's alignment can be altered during the design phase. The project's price tag ratcheted up to $1.7 billion on Wednesday, after corps officials accounted for buyouts they said would be necessary for all the homes in Oxbow, Hickson and the Bakke subdivision, south of Fargo.

Corps projections show those communities would see water levels at least 3 feet higher in the event of a 100-year flood, once the diversion is in place. Those communities lie in the staging area - like the Buths' home near rural Comstock, Minn. - which would be used for water storage once river levels reached a certain height.

"I'm finding out tentatively that where our elevation is, it should be very minimal - we're talking inches," Wendy Buth said.


While that's somewhat reassuring, the Buths said they're concerned corps officials didn't notify them when the project changed to include sizable impacts in the area around their home.

"We didn't realize it was going to affect the Minnesota side," Buth said. "We even thought with everything taking place west of us, it might even help our area, and it feels a little deceptive to not have had a say on anything when they know it's affecting us and our neighbors."

Other residents from the Comstock area also attended Thursday's community meeting, as well as many residents from West Fargo, Harwood, Horace and other rural communities in the area.

Fargo, Moorhead and Cass and Clay county boards have until April 11 to reaffirm their support for the North Dakota channel, in order to stay on track with the tight timeline set by those governing bodies.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541

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