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Dayton blasts North Dakota over Red River diversion

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks Updated: September 3, 2014 - 12:34 PM

The Red River Diversion project will never happen without Minnesota's approval, Gov. Mark Dayton warned North Dakota officials Tuesday.

"If you're going to kick sand in the face of Minnesota...it will come back to haunt you. I'm certain of that," Dayton told a crowd at a public forum in Breckenridge Tuesday, according to the Fargo Forum.

The governor and other state officials are fuming over North Dakota's decision to push ahead with the massive flood control project without waiting for Minnesota to complete its environmental review. After Breckenridge, Dayton headed to Moorhead, across the river from Fargo, Wednesday morning, to share his concerns with state and local officials there.

The $1.8 billion Fargo-Moorhead diversion project would protect flood-prone Fargo, but at the cost of pushing floodwaters onto Minnesota farmland instead.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in in the midst of an extensive environmental review of the project, and has asked North Dakota to hold off on construction until the review is complete sometime next year. But North Dakota broke ground this summer on the first phase of the diversion -- a ring levee around several of its small towns that would be in the path of the diverted floodwater.

Last week, Dayton formally asked U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to halt work on the project until Minnesota completes its review. On Tuesday, he also criticized the makeup of the nine-member Diversion Authority that governs the project, saying it is "absolutely unacceptable" that only two of the seats are filled by Minnesotans.

Congress has authorized the project, which would dig a 36-mile channel around Fargo and put a diversion dam across the Red River to back floodwaters into the surrounding countryside, including farms on the Minnesota side of the river that are currently well above the floodplain.

But Congress has not yet come up with the money.

“I served six years in the U.S. Senate,” Dayton said. “Authorization and appropriation are very different matters.”

And without Minnesota's cooperation, Dayton warned, "you're not going to get the money."

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