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Published June 19, 2012, 09:55 PM

Minnesota DNR: Severe consequences if parts of proposed diversion fail

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The Minnesota DNR is calling it highly hazardous, saying there could be some severe consequences if parts of the proposed Red River Diversion fails.

The Minnesota DNR is calling it highly hazardous, saying there could be some severe consequences if parts of the proposed Red River Diversion fails. An environmental impact statement in the works says a water storage area failure could lead to a lot more than just flooding.

The Minnesota DNR says a water storage area between Comstock and Horace that's part of the proposed Red River Diversion project could be damaging if it fails.

Jason Boyle - State Dam Safety Engineer: "Potential for loss of life, or damage to property or health, or economic loss to the public."

The DNR's talking about a stretch between the two towns marked for a 15 foot tall structure that could keep back 200 thousand acre-feet of water. The DNR says they're not judging the structure itself -- just the impacts of possible failure or mis-operation.

Jason Boyle: "We don't assume how it would fail; we just assume the worst possible scenario."

The Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority says if the dam did fail -- expansive clay could be to blame.

Nathan Berseth – Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority: "When it's wet it absorbs a lot of water, and when it's dry it shrinks up."

Yet Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker says the clay will create a sturdy structure.

Mayor Dennis Walaker - Fargo: “It's the ability for the soil to hold that moisture."

Walaker says there is one catch.

Mayor Dennis Walaker: "As long as they don't pile it too high. That's what it's all about."

The Joint Powers Authority says they're keeping the Flood Diversion Board in check.

Nathan Berseth: "People need to know it’s more than just a diversion. They continue to talk about the diversion but there is a dam there as well. I, for one, wouldn't want to be sitting on the other side of that dam."

The Flood Diversion Board says so far the design is not even complete and reducing downstream impacts is still a top priority.

Designs for that piece of the proposed project should be finished up between September of this year, and early next year.

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