Burgum applauds Minnesota DNR’s approval of permit for Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project, thanks task force

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BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum applauded today’s landmark decision by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to grant a permit for the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Project, a major milestone in efforts to secure permanent protection against catastrophic flooding for the F-M metro area.

In the announcement, Minnesota DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr called the approved “Plan B” project, with conditions included in the DNR’s permit, “a balanced approach to reducing flood risk in an important metropolitan area while protecting public safety and the environment.”

“Today’s historic decision by the Minnesota DNR was made possible by our Task Force’s willingness to collaborate and make data-driven recommendations to revive this stalled project, address concerns and arrive at the best possible outcome,” Burgum said. “We thank the DNR for rigorously analyzing 33 project alternatives and agreeing that Plan B is a solid, balanced approach to providing permanent 100-year flood protection for the entire metro area. This project will protect a crucial economic engine for the entire state of North Dakota and western Minnesota, safeguarding more than 95 percent of Cass County residents from catastrophic flooding and eliminating the need for homeowners and businesses to purchase costly flood insurance. We urge our local, state and federal leaders to approve the remaining permits and funding necessary to complete this essential infrastructure project.”

Construction on the diversion project began in spring 2017, but a U.S. District Court judge approved a temporary injunction in September 2017 ordering work to stop. The ruling recognized the need for permanent flood protection for Fargo-Moorhead and strongly encouraged all parties to work together to agree on a project that can serve the interests of both states and the affected communities.

Burgum and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton met in October 2018 and jointly decided to create the 16-member F-M Area Flood Diversion Task Force to address the DNR’s concerns about the diversion project. The Task Force had eight members from each state, including representatives of upstream and downstream interests. Burgum and Dayton co-chaired the Task Force, which convened five times in three months – aided by technical subcommittees that spent hundreds of hours analyzing alternatives – to try to reach consensus on components of the project. The group’s work ultimately led to the F-M Diversion Board of Authority submitting a new permit application to the DNR in March 2018.

Burgum expressed his deepest gratitude to Gov. Dayton and his staff, Commissioner Landwehr and DNR staff, and the entire Task Force: 

From North Dakota:

  • Cass County Engineer Jason Benson
  • Fargo business leader and entrepreneur Ron Bergan
  • Richland County Commissioner Nathan Berseth
  • Greater North Dakota Chamber Board Chairman Bernie Dardis
  • Richland County farmer Craig Hertsgaard
  • Natural resources attorney Tami Norgard
  • Fargo City Commissioner John Strand
  • Grand Forks City Council member Ken Vein

From Minnesota:

  • Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams
  • Moorhead City Council Member Heidi Durand
  • Moorhead City Council Member Joel Paulsen
  • Clay County Commissioner Jenny Mongeau
  • Former Wilkin County Attorney Tim Fox
  • Treasurer of Buffalo-Red River Watershed District Mark Anderson
  • Hendrum Mayor Curt Johannsen
  • Norman County Commissioner Steve Jacobson

The DNR’s approval follows its completion of a supplemental environmental review of the revised project.

The approved project will protect nearly 95 percent of Cass County’s estimated 178,000 residents, protecting the North Dakota communities of Fargo, West Fargo, Horace, Harwood, Reiles Acres, Prairie Rose, Frontier and Briarwood. The Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead public school districts alone serve a combined 28,800 students, and more than 30,000 college students also will be protected by the project. The diversion also will protect well over $17 billion in property in North Dakota alone and will provide certainty to consumers and businesses in Cass County, which in 2017 accounted for 16 percent, or $2.8 billion, of North Dakota’s taxable sales and purchases. 

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