By Rae Ann Kelsch
North Dakota officials have told planners for the proposed Fargo Moorhead Diversion that they have not met state permitting requirements. The diversion project is designed to provide flood protection for the cities of Fargo and Moorhead as well as remove 50 square miles from the natural floodplain for future development. A 36-mile long diversion channel along with a dam on the Red River will inundate more than 50,000 acres upstream of the project during operation. The North Dakota Water Commission told project officials that state law requires them to get easements on the staging area before a permit can be issued. North Dakota’s eminent domain laws allow for a jury trial to award damages before eminent domain can be exercised to gain easements.
The lengthy process makes it unlikely the project will meet criteria needed to gain a new federal project start outlined in President Obama’s budget. A footnote to the 2016 Army Corps Work Plan stated “The Corps will not execute a PPA for construction, or use federal funds for its construction, until the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Civil Works determines that the Corps is likely to resolve any outstanding regulatory issues that could affect the prospects for completing construction of the project.”
A determination of eligibility must be made by August 31, 2016. Opponents of the current diversion plan argue that a regional approach to flood control emphasizing a reduction in peak stream flows throughout the basin, as well as a smaller diversion channel that doesn’t encourage floodplain development, would have less negative environmental impacts and be consistent with NEPA guidelines.