FARGO, N.D. — The group sponsoring a Red River diversion channel around the Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, area said Friday it has completed a revised plan in hopes of reviving the stalled project. Upstream opponents still don't like it.
The new plan came after the North Dakota and Minnesota governors assembled a task force to study the project that was halted by a federal judge because it didn't have a permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority officials said the new design was handled by a technical team that included three DNR members.
"This seems to be our best option," Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said.
The new plan reduces impacts in Richland County in North Dakota and Wilkin County in Minnesota that, in the original plan, were in the heart of a staging area to hold excess water in times of serious flooding. The southern embankment would move further north and more water would be sent through the Fargo-Moorhead area when necessary.
The diversion authority said the changes will result in the project operating an average of once every 20 years, as opposed to once every 10 years in the original plan. The adjustments also remove five cemeteries from the impacted area.
Some upstream opponents who filed a lawsuit to stop the project say it ignores DNR suggestions and is actually worse for some North Dakota residents. A release from the Richland/Wilkin Join Powers Authority said its own proposal to the governors' task force was "clearly the least impactful" and answered all of the DNR's questions.
"The diversion authority's new proposal actually increased the size of the project by thousands of acres from 72,923 to 67,812 acres," the release said. "The diversion authority failed to address critical issues set forth in the permit denial."
Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams said the new project incorporates all of the changes recommended by the task force.
"There will still be impacts from the project, but the impacts upstream are considerably less," Williams said.
Construction had started early last year on a gated inlet structure south of Horace. The diversion authority hopes to get permit approval this year to enable construction to resume next year, with an expected completion date of 2025.