WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 23, 2011, 09:58 AM

Corps holds open meetings to finalize diversion project

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Before a diversion plan can get the final O-K and be sent to congress, the Corps needs to hear from the people. The Corps held its first of 4 open meetings tonight, this one in Fargo.

These open meetings are standard procedure, so the corps can finalize the project. It’s a chance for someone to bring up problems with the current plan. Tonight's meeting in Fargo was a bit of a cake walk for the Corps.

Notice the open seats tonight, the majority of the people here are with the corps, water boards, engineers, and elected officials. There are only about 15 people from the general public, only 1 of them being from Fargo.

MAYOR DENNIS WALAKER – Fargo: “They’ve gone through 3 in a row. Hey, they are tired.”

The same diversion plan presented to the officials was presented tonight. It is a North Dakota diversion that is 36 miles long and costs 1.7 billion dollars. The feds will cover 700,000 of it.

A 100 year flood like we've seen recently is about 39 feet right now. A diversion would lower the river level through Fargo-Moorhead to 30.6 feet or about 8 and a half feet.

To protect downstream communities, retention ponds would be in place up stream. It would mean about 8 and a half feet more water where the diversion begins.

AARON SNYDER - US Army Corps of Engineers: "Every mile or so you move away it's going to decrease a foot. So if you're a mile away, it'd be 7 and a half feet. 3 miles or where Oxbow is, there about 5 and a half 6 feet of water."

Corps officials say what can switch or tweak the project right now are critical comments, that's technically based, educated comments on why this diversion isn't the correct option. But Corps leaders say they've covered their bases.

AARON SNYDER - US Army Corps of Engineers: "We've gone through lots of different plans, we've looked at levees, and we’ve looked at storage. Really the diversion plan we've came up with is the plan it provides the most robust plan for Fargo and Moorhead."

The Corps is expecting a much different audience tomorrow. That meeting will be held in Kindred, the area most affected by the current plan.

An open house starts at 6 with presentation and questions at 7. Wednesday's meeting will also be at 7, that one at the Courtyard by Marriott In Moorhead.

Then the final meeting on Thursday will be an open house at 6-30 followed by a presentation at 7:30. That one is at Norman County West Elementary School. If the open meetings do not bring any big changes, the Corps says the plan will be finalized by December and in front of congress next year for approval and funding.