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Diversion fight grows

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(WDAY TV) - A Minnesota state agency is latest to speak out against the Red River Diversion Project and wants to join the fight to stop it.

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The Minnesota DNR is asking to participate in the lawsuit filed by the Richland/Wilkin Joint Powers Authority.

But will its efforts impact the project?

The Minnesota DNR is the first state agency that wants to be a part of the lawsuit against the US Army Corps of Engineers, challenging the $1.8 billion diversion.

It's even filed a brief in U-S District Court.

Frustrations are flying high over the F-M area diversion project, now with the Minnesota DNR trying to pump the breaks.

Nathan Berseth/MnDak Upstream Coalition: "The Minnesota DNR backing up our lawsuit, compared to two smaller counties and a bunch of residents, it absolutely bolsters our argument."

The Richland/Wilkin Joint Powers Authority originally filed the lawsuit against the U-S Army Corps of Engineers, who, with the Diversion Authority, went ahead with the project instead of waiting for the DNR to complete its environmental impact study.

Berseth: "It obviously tells us that the Minnesota DNR is very concerned about this project, they don't have a voice in it, and they're being treated as insignificant by the diversion authority and the corps."

The DNR has interest regulating the Red River and cites concerns that the proposed diversion project is not subject to state regulation and should not be immune to state law, but diversion supporters say even with a big name backer, this brief is not a game changer.

Darrell Vanyo/Diversion Authority Chairman: "Nothing is going to change our approach to the project. I think there is some confidence in the fact that the Minnesota DNR, it's thought to be highly unlikely that they're going to come up with something that's going to be a showstopper."

Berseth: "It makes the diversion authority and the corps accountable. It makes them answer to the state of Minnesota. Will the supersede Minnesota state law?"

But for now the project will move forward, until the legal system stops it.

"Projects like this have their twists and turns and this is just another one of them."

The DNR's environmental report is expected by next May.

And tomorrow, I will be making a trip to Rosemount, Minnesota, to see the first to-scale model of part of the diversion project. The model alone costs $2.6 million. 

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