Minn., North Dakota officials to resolve project dispute

Published 5:11 pm Thursday, September 28, 2017

ST. PAUL — The governors of Minnesota and North Dakota are working to salvage a flood control project after a federal judge stopped construction of the $2.2 billion river diversion.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum have issued statements saying they hope to resolve the dispute over the Fargo-Moorhead project, Minnesota Public Radio reported .

The project would use a levee to divert Red River flood waters around the cities. County governments near the river sued to stop the project in 2013 over concerns that it would shift flooding to their areas.

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction this summer without permits from Minnesota.

U.S. District Judge John Tunheim ruled earlier this month to stop the project until it acquires permits from Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources.

Dayton said he wants to meet with Minnesota residents before discussing the project’s future. Burgum said he hopes to work with Minnesota officials to modify the project so it can meet the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ requirements to qualify for a permit.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said he hopes to resolve the issues and move forward with the project.

“It’s better if we can solve our issue with Minnesota, because otherwise you have this ongoing lawsuit, that could be a 2- to 3-year delay,” he said. “We see it as a blessing in disguise. Let’s try to figure out what our differences are, get everybody on the team, then move forward.”

The project’s existing authorization requires it have a diversion and a dam, said Terry Williams, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers. If those components change, the project would need to get new congressional approval.

Officials have been working on the diversion project for nearly a decade.