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Minnesota bill would allocate $187K to study flood prevention near Oslo

OSLO, Minn.--A grassroots group of landowners along the Red River wants to study a series of potential measures that could help to prevent chronic flooding near Oslo.

I-29 Red River
A procession of semi-trucks move slowly on Feb. 25, 2011, along I-29 south of Oslo, Minn., as flood water from the Red River stretches across the valley. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

OSLO, Minn.-A grassroots group of landowners along the Red River wants to study a series of potential measures that could help to prevent chronic flooding near Oslo.

A Minnesota Senate committee this week approved a bill sponsored by Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, D-Plummer, that would pay $187,000 for half of the study cost. The study would require matching funds from North Dakota, he said.

"This has kind of bubbled up from the ground up ... from both sides of the river," Stumpf said.

Members of the Border Townships Associative Group (BTAG) and officials from the Middle Snake Tamarac Rivers Watershed District met with state legislators in St. Paul this week to lobby for the project.

BTAG, which organized in 2013, has one representative each from seven townships in the Oslo area, as well as from the city of Oslo. They are the Turtle River Township (Grand Forks County) and Walshville and Pulaski townships (Walsh County), all in North Dakota, and Higdem (Polk County) Fork, Big Woods, Oak Park and City of Oslo (Marshall County), all in Minnesota.

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"This study would look at some smaller projects. If we do certain things, what are the flood impacts?" said Danny Omdahl, a Middle Snake Tamarac Rivers Watershed District administrator.

Among the potential projects could be studying the impact of moving an agricultural levee further away from the river or removing other obstacles close to the river, he said.

One of those obstacles is an approach to an old highway that once crossed the Red River near Oslo, he said. The original N.D. Highway 54 crossed the river about 200 to 300 feet north of the existing Oslo Bridge.

"These guys know where the pinch points are," Omdahl said of BTAG members.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is proposing a project to replace the existing Oslo Bridge. The project is on MNDOT's State Transportation Improvement Program list for 2018.

BTAG has lobbied for the replacement of both the Oslo Bridge and the Minn. Highway 317 bridge 14 miles north of Oslo. However, group members have contended additional flood relief measures are necessary.

The Oslo Bridge connects N.D. Highway 54 with Minn. Highway 1 at Oslo, while the Highway 317 bridge connects with N.D. Highway 17 east of Grafton, N.D.

Diking first became a major issue in 1975 in the area when Minnesota landowners hastily constructed dikes to stave off summer flooding. Some North Dakota landowners later did likewise.

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In 1982, a lawsuit reached U.S. District Court in Fargo.

A federal court order attempted to solve years of bickering between landowners by setting Oct. 31, 1986, as the due date to lower dikes on both sides of the river to the level of a 36-foot flood crest at Oslo.

Many BTAG members are descendants of landowners involved in the original lawsuit.

Related Topics: RED RIVER
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