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F-M diversion planners to seek state funding in February

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney

BISMARCK — Hopeful that legal barriers will soon be lifted, officials planning the massive flood protection project for Fargo-Moorhead plan to seek state funding early next year, Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney told North Dakota legislators Thursday, Oct. 12.

Two years ago, state lawmakers passed a bill stating their intent for $266 million to be made available for the project in equal installments over the following four bienniums. Mahoney said they're planning to go to the State Water Commission, chaired by Gov. Doug Burgum, to ask for that $66.5 million in February.

"The injunction hopefully is over by then," Mahoney said during break in the joint meeting between the State Water Commission and the Water Topics Overview Committee at the state Capitol.

A federal judge in September ordered work on the $2.2 billion diversion to halt, a move welcomed by the state of Minnesota. The governors of Minnesota and North Dakota have since formed a task force to iron out differences between the two states.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has said he hopes the task force will complete its work and make recommendations within 60 days. Without the injunction, Mahoney said they would have already asked for the money.

"Since we have the injunction, we really can't spend it ... on anything in a sense," he said.

Water Topics Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Schmidt, R-Huff, said he has concerns with how litigation may affect project funding, but advocated for a "wait and see" approach.

"We need to sit back and see what the courts determine and then take our course of action," he said.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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