Gov. Doug Burgum yesterday stressed the critical importance of securing permanent protection against catastrophic flooding for the Fargo-Moorhead metro area, urging officials to build on the momentum of the F-M Area Flood Diversion Task Force after the group concluded its fifth and final meeting.
Burgum expressed deep gratitude to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and the 16 members of the Task Force – eight from each state – for their diligent work on the stalled project since the governors appointed them Oct. 18 and the first meeting was held Oct. 23.
“Assembling this group of dedicated citizens with diverse viewpoints to reach consensus on a massive flood protection project was a historic undertaking, and we’ve come a long way since that first meeting just seven weeks ago,” Burgum said. “The recommendations being forwarded to the F-M Diversion Authority lay the groundwork for achieving our goals of achieving 100-year certified flood protection, retaining federal authorization and identifying a potential path forward for a project that’s permittable by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).”
The Task Force was asked to review six key project components at the meeting. There appeared to be consensus around the implementation of tie-back retention levees and the amount of water allowed to pass through the cities’ center. The group remained divided over other questions focusing on the alignment of the embankment structures and the appropriate amount of downstream impacts.
Of the alignments studied, the most popular option shifted the southern embankment north to the area between the Wild Rice and Red rivers. Other Task Force members expressed interest in combining various alignment proposals.
Burgum and Dayton agreed in October to create and co-chair the Task Force to try to address the Minnesota DNR’s concerns about the diversion project.
Construction on the $2.2 billion project began last spring, but U.S. District Court Judge John A. Tunheim approved a temporary injunction on Sept. 7, ordering work to stop. The ruling recognized the need for permanent flood protection for Fargo-Moorhead and strongly encouraged all parties to work together to agree on a project that can serve the interests of both states and the affected communities.
A final report from the Task Force, noting areas of consensus and differing viewpoints, will be submitted in the coming weeks to the Diversion Authority, which could choose to reapply to the DNR for a project permit.