Agreement signed to end Fargo-Moorhead flood project dispute

Floodwall construction in Fargo, N.D.
Crews are conducting floodwall construction in Fargo, N.D., in November 2015.
Ann Arbor Miller | MPR News 2015

A settlement signed Monday will end existing federal and state legal action against the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project. 

Upstream opponents of the nearly $3 billion project had sued in federal and state court, and challenged a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources permit for the diversion. 

They contended the project would increase potential flood risk and economic loss for them while protecting Fargo-Moorhead from flooding. 

The legal cases have slowed construction of the project, which has been in the works for more than a decade. Local officials now hope the project can be completed in about seven years. 

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Under the agreement, all parties will ask Judge John Tunheim to dismiss the federal lawsuit. Requests will also be made to end a legal case in Minnesota state courts and a pending case before a Minnesota administrative law judge.

The settlement sets aside up to $75 million in a compensation fund for future damage, and includes unspecified funding for flood related projects in several small towns near the diversion project. 

The Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority will also develop a crop insurance program, and a program to clean flood debris from farm fields. 

“We believe this agreement gives us the local control to ensure that our concerns over the impacts in Richland County from the diversion project will be adequately addressed.” Richland County, N.D., Commissioner Nathan Berseth said in a statement. 

Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority Chair and Fargo, N.D., Mayor Tim Mahoney said the agreement found common ground to resolve the legal disputes. 

 “This agreement is monumental and I really commend all sides for coming together to find resolution,’ he said.