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Rural diversion meetings set

FARGO - Residents affected by the Red River diversion project will have several chances this spring to meet personally with Diversion Authority officials and discuss how the project will impact them.

FARGO - Residents affected by the Red River diversion project will have several chances this spring to meet personally with Diversion Authority officials and discuss how the project will impact them.

Consultants and members of the Diversion Authority have scheduled a slate of meetings with rural community leaders starting this month through early April, in the hopes of clearing up any confusion about the project's proposed impacts.

Officials first met with Oxbow leaders in January, a two-day session after which Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof said he walked away "comfortable" with the approach local leaders are taking right now.

"It's just learning more and communicating not only with you guys but also with our residents, so they know what to expect," Nyhof said.

As design work moves forward this year, local consultants are also studying ways to reduce the project's negative impacts, specifically in upstream communities south of Fargo-Moorhead.


But the ambiguity of the future and the lack of information to date has frustrated upstream residents. It's a problem local officials hope upcoming informal meetings can remedy.

Next week, diversion consultants and leaders plan to meet with officials in Hickson and the Bakke Addition, and later in the month, they'll meet with leaders in Comstock, Minn., Christine, N.D., and rural townships.

In March, the Diversion Authority plans to hold public community outreach meetings to engage with residents in those towns.

Land acquisition plan to detail buyout process

Behind the scenes, the authority's staff and consultants are working to craft a land management plan that will detail the specific process on how they'll go about acquiring the properties needed to both build the project and mitigate its impacts.

A draft should be finished by March 30 and ready for the Diversion Authority's approval in May, said Tom Waters, the board's project management team leader.

That timeline will allow staff to adequately vet specific options that could affect how landowners are compensated for their property, Waters said.

"The goal is to develop the plan as soon as we can get one, with evolving levels of detail so those affected can understand what will happen and when it will happen; it's a commitment we all have," he said.


Minnesota environmental study moves forward

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is moving forward with the initial phase of its environmental impact study on the diversion project - a study that might not begin for almost a year.

The state of Minnesota won't grant the required permits for the project until the DNR completes a state-level environmental assessment.

It may take nearly 10 months to gauge the extent of the state's study, based on what's already been addressed in the Army Corps of Engineers' assessment, Waters said.

After that point, the actual study would begin, but if the state determines a full study is required, the Diversion Authority will have to pay $1.4 million to the DNR for the analysis.

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

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