Diversion Plan: Environmental study on downstream effects is way ahead of scheduleFargo, ND (WDAY TV) – It is a major step forward in the fight for flood protection in the valley. Army Corps General Michael Walsh held a private meeting with city and county officials on both sides of the Red River are saying the required environmental study on downstream effects is way ahead of schedule.
The mayor today tells me it seems like the Corps is moving at "super speed" with their 1.5 billion dollar project and it’s a major credit to last week's county-wide vote.
MAYOR WALAKER: "What's really unique about this whole process is there are still some optimistic people."
Monday's meeting came as a surprise: a request by General Walsh. Mayor Dennis Walaker was briefed on the swift-moving report on downstream diversion effects. The General says he expects to send his report to the Corps Chief about a month ahead of schedule.
WALAKER: "It would be a great Christmas present!"
SCOTT WAGNER: "To know that those dollars are locally secured, I think is going to be significant because there are obviously other communities that are vying for flood protection."
Corps leaders say last week's “Yes” vote to increasing the county sales tax spoke volumes on the federal level.
WALAKER: "Win, lose or draw, I think we've gone the full mile."
Despite this news, Walaker says there's still a lot of work ahead; most importantly in securing federal funding. With two major North Dakota voices on the national scene soon gone, Walaker says Senator Kent Conrad and Amy Klobuchar will have to step up. But once Governor Hoeven steps in as U.S. Senator, he's expected to be on the Senate appropriations committee.
A group of Minnesota and North Dakota watershed district officials have formed the "Red River Valley Retention Authority," to find more areas where they can store water for flood protection.
Minnesota State Representative Morrie Lanning was at the committee's first meeting today. He says they've identified about 1-million acre feet of land of potential storage in both states. He says retention is an essential part of flood protection, along with the diversion.
"Because you've got all kinds of environmental concerns, you have land owners that have to be willing to allow their land to be used in that way and be compensated for it. Retention is very, very difficult."
A preliminary retention figure would cost about 500 million dollars, of local state and federal money. Lanning says it could about take the same time as the diversion to get retention projects fully in place.