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Mayor's Musings: Reasoning behind a more western diversion

As part of the process, the city of West Fargo sent a letter to the Corps of Engineers to explain our position on why we feel it is important to move the proposed Red River diversion to the west and not hook into the West Fargo diversion. I will list some of the highlights from the letter.

One issue addressed in the letter that you may not have heard much about is bridges. When the West Fargo diversion was constructed, four bridge crossings were built to cross the diversion. Each was built at a cost of more than $1.5 million. Under the proposal by the Corps, three of those crossings would be eliminated.

The city of West Fargo feels this is unacceptable for safety reasons and the school district. It would make it more difficult for fire and ambulance services to reach the areas west of the diversion. It also will be very expensive for the school district to run school routes with such limited access. If the Corps does not build the bridges, it would cost the city an estimated $11.4 million dollars to do so. That is a lot of money!

We also feel the Corps should have taken into consideration the West Fargo comprehensive plan. The Corps did look at the Fargo and Moorhead plans. Comprehensive plans look at future growth and how that growth will be managed. In the plan, it is not if, but when we will grow to the west.

The Corps, as a reason for rejecting moving the diversion west, cites Executive Order 11988 as the reason. This order states that the development of federal projects does not allow for taking land out of the flood plain. However, Fargo will have an estimated 43 square miles coming out of the flood plain if the diversion is built. So, the question comes back to just where in the flood plain the diversion should be placed.

We also feel the Western Area Power Association's power station and the Raymond interchange should be protected. There has been a lot of water surrounding both in the past. If power were lost at the substation, equipment, such as sump pumps, lift stations and other equipment that is essential for flood control and holding down damages, would not be able to function.

The Raymond interchange is another key to protecting lives during a flood. The interchange is a major point of connectivity in our transportation network for the area. We need the interchange to get to such areas as Hayden Heights, Willow Creek and the numerous other single-family homes and farmsteads. To lose the interchange during a flood could cause the loss of life.

Finally, and what I've heard from many of you, is the need to protect the integrity of the West Fargo diversion that provides flood protection for our residents. We cannot afford to have that protection jeopardized. We cannot allow the city to be put in jeopardy during construction if the Red River diversion is tied into ours.

Also, we already have erosion concerns on our diversion because of the high water flows during past years. By adding the Red River and Wild Rice flows, it is believed the erosion could worsen significantly. We also are concerned that new construction on our diversion could cause soil instability. At a minimum, the current diversion should remain as its own system in the event the Red River diversion should fail. There also is the issue of more Devils Lake water heading our way.

Again, this is a summary of what our letter to the Corps of Engineers contained. I know that other areas, such as Oxbow, also have sent in comments. I hope you will too! Go to the West Fargo home page at to find out how you can leave a comment.

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Mattern is a longtime West Fargo resident who is serving his third term as mayor. He also serves as an Information Specialist for the North Dakota State University Ag. Communication Department and as an adjunct instructor in the Minnesota State University Mass Communications Department.