FARGO, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today joined local, state and federal leaders for the signing of a new Project Partnership Agreement for the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Project, while also applauding the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for asking a judge to allow construction to begin on the flood control project in accordance with the DNR’s permit requirements.
The governor also participated in a discussion about the metro area’s preparations in anticipation of significant spring flooding.
“Between the Army Corps’ increased participation and the DNR’s request, this project continues to gain momentum in recognition of the significant value it will provide both states in terms of protecting human life, the F-M area’s thriving economy and billions of dollars in property value,” Burgum said. “The current threat of another significant flood impacting the metro area underscores the need to build this comprehensive flood protection project as soon as possible. We’re grateful for the actions by Assistant Secretary James, Sen. Hoeven, the F-M Diversion Authority, and all other local, state and federal officials working hard to see this vitally important project to completion.”
The new Project Partnership Agreement reflects the direction given earlier this month by Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, R.D. James, for the Army Corps of Engineers to increase federal participation in the diversion project by $300 million, from $450 million to $750 million. James also approved the renegotiation of the PPA for comprehensive flood protection in the Red River Valley.
Construction on the diversion began in spring 2017, but a federal judge approved a temporary injunction in September 2017 ordering work to stop and encouraging diversion proponents and opponents to find common ground on a project that can serve the interests of both states and the affected communities. In October 2017, Burgum and then-Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton agreed to create a two-state task force whose recommendations ultimately resulted in the F-M Diversion Board of Authority submitting a new “Plan B” permit application to the Minnesota DNR in March 2018.
After the DNR approved the permit in December, two Minnesota communities and a watershed district requested a contested case hearing, essentially suspending the permit. In a filing Friday in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, the DNR asked Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim to order “that construction may commence consistent with all of the requirements set forth in DNR’s pending Permit” during the pending contested case hearing. Tunheim has yet to act on the request.
“Minnesota now finds itself with a project that it believes meets all permitting requirements,” the DNR states in the filing, noting the agency “found that the public safety and welfare would be adequately protected provided construction was completed pursuant to the DNR’s regulatory oversight and the 54 conditions listed in its Permit.”
The diversion project will protect nearly 95 percent of Cass County’s estimated 178,000 residents, nearly 50,000 K-12 and college students, $20 billion in property and the metro area’s thriving economy, Burgum noted. Cass County accounted for 16 percent, or $2.8 billion, of North Dakota’s taxable sales and purchases in 2017.