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Fargo, Cass County must decide diversion sponsorship

FARGO -- Fargo and Cass County officials will be going eyeball-to-eyeball to determine which government will be the North Dakota sponsor for a Red River diversion channel.

FARGO -- Fargo and Cass County officials will be going eyeball-to-eyeball to determine which government will be the North Dakota sponsor for a Red River diversion channel.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker and Cass County Commissioner Scott Wagner debated the issue Thursday at a meeting of the Metro Flood Study Work Group.

Participants were told by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project co-manager Aaron Snyder that the project must have local sponsors sign a pact with the corps by July 15.

That pact would have the sponsors take responsibility for the project, pay bills, and handle maintenance.

Clay County Commissioner Chairman Kevin Campbell said it won't be hard for Moorhead and the county to agree on a Minnesota sponsor.

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But that sort of comity appears harder to come by west of the Red.

Walaker said study sponsors Fargo and Moorhead should be the diversion sponsors.

"Why do we basically want to gum up the works?" he argued.

Wagner replied that the diversion won't be built in the city. The landowners elected the county commissioners, he said.

"When I look at the landscape, the dynamics here, we should have that conversation," Wagner said.

Walaker asked if both Fargo and Cass County could sign together. But Snyder said the pact becomes too complex with more than two sponsors.

Fargo City Commissioner Tim Mahoney agreed that talks between the city and county are needed, and said the city would consult with the congressional delegation for guidance.

In other business:

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- Fargo City Attorney Erik Johnson gave a rough outline of how a joint powers agreement could be crafted among Fargo, Moorhead, Cass and Clay counties, and the water boards on both sides of the river to pay for, govern and maintain a diversion.

- On Sunday, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy will be in Fargo for a 5 p.m. meeting with local leaders at City Hall.

Darcy will eventually decide if the North Dakota diversion chosen as the locally preferred flood control option will continue to be considered. Without a waiver from her, the only other option for a diversion would be a Minnesota channel.

The corps hopes to have a National Economic Development plan, the option considered the best deal for the nation, determined by May 10, as well as a decision by Darcy on the North Dakota channel.

The corps' draft report on the flood control study is to be released May 21.

The work group next meets May 13.

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

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