Red River diversion lawsuit hearing set

Published 10:05 am Tuesday, October 29, 2013

FARGO, N.D. — A federal court hearing has been scheduled next month on whether the F-M Diversion Authority can intervene in a lawsuit by opponents of the planned Red River diversion around Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead — neighboring cities that have battled major flooding in four of the last five years.

The diversion authority — the group that is the primary local sponsor of the proposed nearly $2 billion flood protection project — has filed court documents seeking to be named a co-defendant in the lawsuit that opponents upstream filed against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which would build the project.

The federal court hearing is set Nov. 26 in Duluth.

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The Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority sued in August because members think the diversion project is vastly overpriced and will damage farmland. Proponents say the project is necessary to provide long-term protection for the metro area. Fargo-Moorhead saw three straight years of major flooding, beginning with a record crest in 2009, and sandbagging along the river has become a rite of spring in the area.

The U.S. Senate authorized the diversion project earlier this year and the U.S. House approved it last week.

Federal funding still needs to appropriated before construction can begin, however. The construction cost would be shared by local, state and federal governments, with the federal share at more than $800 million. More than $33 million in federal money has already been dedicated toward engineering and design.