Minn., N.D. governors announce group to help resolve flood control dispute

Floodwall construction in Fargo, N.D.
Crews were conducting floodwall construction work east of Fargo City Hall in downtown Fargo, N.D., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, as part of the now halted flood control project.
Ann Arbor Miller | MPR News 2015

Seeking common ground on a flood control project for Fargo-Moorhead, Govs. Mark Dayton of Minnesota and Doug Burgum of North Dakota said they will form a special commission to work through a permit dispute.

The task force will have eight members from each state. Dayton, a DFLer, and Burgum, a Republican, will work as co-chairmen.

Dayton said at a press conference in Moorhead, Minn., Wednesday that it's important the two states get to an out-of-court solution for the project.

"Failure is not an option," Dayton said. "You know there has got to be flood protection for this growing area and for the people around it."

The $2.2 billion plan calls for a 35-mile channel to take floodwater around the cities. But there are concerns it will result in more flooding for smaller Red River Valley communities upstream.

Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources hasn't granted a permit for the diversion and says it won't as currently designed. A federal judge halted work on the project last month.

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But Burgum hopes a new working group can get it back on track.

Engineers have been trying for years to design something that won't merely shift flooding to other Red River communities, Burgum said, adding that the group will look at which options reduce the impact for Minnesota and people living upstream.

"I think we have to come at this with everything on the table," he said. "You have to look at this in a very open way everything on the table again because without a Minnesota permit, this project doesn't go forward."

Dayton said the working group should be formed and its work completed in a month or two. But it's not entirely clear how much power it will have to change a project already subject to federal litigation.