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Construction to begin on Roseau's flood diversion

Construction of the first phase of a Roseau, Minn., flood control diversion channel will begin this year after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $2 million contract for the work, the Corps announced Thursday.

Construction of the first phase of a Roseau, Minn., flood control diversion channel will begin this year after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $2 million contract for the work, the Corps announced Thursday.

"We're excited that the digging's going to start," said Todd Peterson, the city's community development director.

It's been "a long time coming" to see the work begin -- almost eight years, in fact, since the city was heavily damaged by major flooding caused by runoff after heavy rains. The Roseau River set a record crest of 23.4 feet in June 2002.

"We started working with the Corps pretty much immediately after the flooding in 2002," Peterson said. "It's been eight years so far to get to this point."

But there's still "a fair amount of heavy lifting to go" before the rest of the project is on track to be finished, Peterson said.

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Davidson Construction of Newfolden, Minn., won the bid to complete the first part of the $35 million project that will eventually route high water around the city. The bid was awarded in late March but not announced until Thursday -- the federal government had to give approval because the funding comes from the economic stimulus bill.

Phase I calls for building about a mile of the northern end of the diversion channel and outlet structure that will direct the water east of the city and into the Roseau River. Crews will also build about 6,400 feet of dirt levees along this part of the channel, and the work is expected to be finished this year.

This is just one part of the diversion, which means it won't offer any flood protection until the full project is completed, Corps project manager Paul Kosterman said.

"It has no benefit on its own," he said.

When it's all done, the diversion will span about 4½ miles and be as wide as 350 feet in some places.

Kosterman said the plan is to award two more contracts for the rest of the work, but that can only happen "when Congress appropriates funds for the project."

The full project will take about three years to complete and could provide flood protection to Roseau in the spring of 2013. But that timeline all depends on getting the rest of the funding to pay for the $35 million project.

Congress could pass another stimulus bill and designate more money for the work, Kosterman said, "but we're not anticipating that." Lawmakers also could include more funding for the project in an appropriations bill in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

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"My guess is that there's a 50 percent chance that substantial funding would be provided in fiscal year 2011," Kosterman said. "If they gave us the money this autumn, it would actually take two more summers to construct it."

Officials are still finalizing plans for the final diversion phases.

"We'll need to continue to get both state and federal funding to implement the later phases," Peterson said.

At least from the Minnesota side, things are looking good for getting the needed funding, he said. The state included more than $50 million for flood projects in this year's bonding bill, Peterson said, and Roseau officials are "hopeful" they'll get adequate funding for the project.

The city has already put about $815,000 into the project to acquire land and pay for planning and specifications. It's enough for Roseau to have reached the limit of what the city is required to pay for the diversion.

Officials are seeking another $5 million to $7 million from the state and $15 million more from the federal government besides what the Corps already has, Peterson said.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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