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Harwood, Horace meet to discuss diversion

A meeting meant to address Cass County concerns moving forward with a North Dakota diversion turned into a debate from landowners questioning whether the project is the most beneficial option and what downstream impact it will have.

County officials met Tuesday with leaders from Horace and Harwood as well as several concerned landowners in the first of three informational meetings on the diversion.

Landowners from surrounding areas are concerned that the diversion addresses flooding immediately around Fargo but pushes the problems farther downstream.

David Gust of Raymond Township said many of the same landowners were affected by flooding after the Sheyenne Diversion was built and he doesn't want to see the problem pushed onto someone else.

Gust said the diversion helps the city of Fargo, but may not be the best option for the rest of the Red River basin.

Darrell Vanyo, county commission chairman, said the diversion project was chosen and endorsed because it protects the most people over the greatest area.

Other landowners had concerns over letters they received from the Army Corps of Engineers requesting access to their land for surveying for the project.

Keith Monson farms near Harwood and said he will not send the letter back by today's deadline because he wants to know when the corps will be on the land and what they're doing.

"None of that is spelled out in the letter," he told commissioners.

Leaders from Harwood and Horace said they were pleased the plan is moving forward but still had questions about specifics of the project.

Horace Mayor Shane Walock expressed concerns over the path the diversion will take through the city and how it will affect its potential for growth. A plan that moves the path farther to the west is preferred, the mayor said.

County Commissioner Scott Wagner said the corps is looking into a path that will alleviate some of those concerns.

Walock asked how special assessments would be used to finance the project.

Vanyo said no funding mechanism will be in place until leaders know what the federal share of the $1.3 billion project is, but special assessments would be tiered depending on how closely landowners are affected.

Harwood Mayor Bill Rohrich asked about contingency flood plans in the expected eight to 10 years until the diversion is finished. The city is planning on reinforcing its existing dike and also looking into the buyouts of five homes, Rohrich said.

Commissioners will meet with every city and township in the county before the corps holds a public input meeting June 9 and 10.

If you go

* What: Cass County informational meetings on North Dakota diversion proposal

* When: West Fargo will meet at 7 p.m. Monday; Argusville, Reiles Acres and North River will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

* Where: Cass County Highway Department, 1201 West Main Ave., West Fargo

* Info: County officials will give a 20-minute presentation and answer questions about the proposal.