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Cass County backs west-side flood diversion project

FARGO The Cass County Commission unanimously approved a resolution on Monday supporting a flood diversion project on the North Dakota side of the Red River, echoing a move recently taken by the county's joint watershed board. County commissioners...

FARGO

The Cass County Commission unanimously approved a resolution on Monday supporting a flood diversion project on the North Dakota side of the Red River, echoing a move recently taken by the county's joint watershed board.

County commissioners stressed the resolution doesn't mean they won't consider other options or information, but a North Dakota diversion is their preferred choice "based on what we know right now," Commissioner Darrell Vanyo said.

The commission approved the resolution after hearing from Tom Fischer, a member of the Cass County Joint Water Resource District board, which has gone on record supporting a North Dakota diversion, as opposed to a diversion channel near Dilworth on the Minnesota side of the Red River.

Less divisive

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Fischer acknowledged that a Minnesota diversion has the best benefit-to-cost ratio, based on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers figures, but he said the potential resistance would also be greatest with that option.

The city of Dilworth is on record opposing a Minnesota diversion, and a number of property owners in rural Clay County have also expressed concerns.

Fischer said a North Dakota diversion doesn't yet meet the benefit-to-cost threshold necessary to receive federal funding, but he said he's confident that will change once the transportation costs of closing Interstate 29 during a flood are figured in.

Federal funding could be in the neighborhood of $700 million, he said.

Five of six Minnesota diversion options, with estimated price tags ranging from $962 million to $1.26 billion, meet the corps' standard for federal funding.

Two North Dakota diversion options, estimated to cost $1.34 billion and $1.36 billion, do not.

The joint water resource board has agreed to throw its taxing authority behind a North Dakota diversion and on Monday Fischer reaffirmed the board's willingness to sponsor a project.

The joint water resource district board is comprised of representatives from the Southeast Cass Water Resource District, and the Maple River, North Cass and Rush River water resource districts.

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Metro group to meet Cass County Commissioner Scott Wagner said potential sources for the local share of a diversion's cost include special assessments, a sales tax and a dedicated fund financed by property taxes if approved by voters.

Wagner said information about Monday's resolution of support will be shared at a meeting on Thursday of members of the Metropolitan Flood Management Committee.

The committee, whose members include representatives from the Cass and Clay county commissions and the cities of Fargo and Moorhead, is working on selecting a permanent flood protection option by December.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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