Walaker: Too early to back flood diversion
FARGO -- Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said Thursday it's too early for him to throw his support behind a North Dakota flood diversion project. Walaker said that's largely because there isn't a plan on the west side of the Red River that meets feder...
FARGO -- Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said Thursday it's too early for him to throw his support behind a North Dakota flood diversion project.
Walaker said that's largely because there isn't a plan on the west side of the Red River that meets federal cost-benefit standards for funding.
No federal cash, no project, Walaker said.
"It has to meet the cost-benefit ratio or there is no project," he said. "Until it gets to a 1.0, there is no project, and people don't seem to understand that. They just keep jumping on board for a North Dakota diversion."
Five of six Minnesota diversion options, with costs ranging from $962 million to $1.26 billion, meet the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' standard for federal funding.
Two North Dakota diversion options, estimated at $1.34 billion and $1.36 billion, do not, but are close to meeting the federal ratio.
The Fargo City Commission has taken no formal stand on what project its members prefer.
The governing bodies of Cass and Clay counties, Moorhead and West Fargo, and the Cass County Joint Water Resource District have voted to support a North Dakota diversion. The Dilworth City Council has voted to oppose a Minnesota diversion.
Walaker said he's for a diversion in either state, but there are issues to be worked through. For example:
Can Minnesota governments pay for a diversion in North Dakota?
Can state and local governments find the cash to pay the difference in cost to build in North Dakota over Minnesota, which could be $350 million to $400 million?
"Those are the questions that need to be asked and they need to be answered, before I sign my name on the process that goes to Congress," Walaker said.
Fargo city commissioners Tim Mahoney and Brad Wimmer agree that a North Dakota project will come down to the cost-benefit math and cash.
"I'm still trying to be real open-minded on both sides of the river," Wimmer said.
"We've got a huge amount of people in Fargo and in North Dakota that want to keep it on the North Dakota side, irregardless of the cost of the project," Wimmer said.
Still, "if the cost-benefit ratio doesn't hit ... we may be forced to going back to Moorhead," he said.
Mahoney said even if the corps bumps a North Dakota diversion over the cost-benefit bar, it will have to be enough to have room to survive tough scrutiny.
If the option is dipped below 1.0 later, "then you don't really have a (local) option that's viable to get federal support."
Fargo City Engineer Mark Bittner prefers a North Dakota diversion because it protects a larger area northwest of Fargo.
But that comes with a lot of added expense, he said.
"I just want it to go somewhere," Bittner said.
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