FARGO, N.D. — Supporters of a Red River diversion project said Wednesday a decision by a Minnesota agency to reject an appeal of a permit it issued in 2018 should remove one of the last hurdles to building the channel.

The announcement by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources opens the door to discussions with affected landowners in Minnesota, officials with the Metro Flood Diversion Authority said. The DNR permit requires the diversion authority to obtain property rights for all land impacted by the project up to the probable maximum flood event.

Joel Paulsen, executive director of the diversion authority, called the affirmation of the permit "another important milestone" for the 30-mile project. The Fargo metropolitan area has dealt with chronic flooding for decades, including a record flood in 2009 that took a massive sandbagging effort to save the city.

The diversion authority in October agreed to provide compensation and flood prevention to political subdivisions located within Richland County in North Dakota and Wilkin County in Minnesota, where upstream residents have contested the project in court. In turn, opponents said they will dismiss all federal and state lawsuits and other proceedings challenging the diversion.

Construction has already begun on two inlet structures southwest of Fargo. Backers are hopeful that the channel will be operational by 2028.