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Price of Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project rises to $2.75 billion with design changes

This is a rendering of the inlet structure near Horace, N.D., looking downstream from the dam. Image credit: Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority.

FARGO — The cost of the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project has increased $600 million, bringing the total price tag to $2.75 billion, officials said Monday, Dec. 3.

The Diversion Authority said the increase is due to delays in the project and design changes from Plan B, a revised project design that incorporated suggestions from a task force led by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum in an effort to reach consensus and allow the stalled project to move forward.

At the Diversion Authority's meeting Monday, members forming a state, federal and local partnership unanimously signed off on the price increase with the understanding that North Dakota and federal government funds will cover the added cost, rather than local funds.

An updated funding plan showed that the local cost of the project is $1.044 billion, and that's being funded with voter-approved sales taxes passed in 2016. North Dakota is allocating $870 million, Minnesota is being asked to pay $86 million, and federal contributions total $750 million, according to the plan.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said at Monday’s meeting that he took precautions back in 2014 to secure increased funding without needing to pass additional legislation. Hoeven added that this is a milestone moment for the project meant to divert Red River floodwater around Fargo-Moorhead.

"This is a huge hurdle because this is the financial plan, of course, that makes it go," he said, "and when you're talking about a $2.75 billion project — it's a big, big deal."

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources still must issue a permit for building a dam — a key but controversial feature of the diversion project. In addition, a court injunction must be lifted for the project to move forward.

The DNR's permit decision will likely be announced by late December or early January before Dayton departs and governor-elect Tim Walz takes office, authority spokesman Rocky Schneider said.

One of the key design changes in the plan that led to the cost increase is having more water flow through Fargo-Moorhead, Schneider said. The original plan was designed to handle a flood up to 35 feet, but based on the task force recommendations, it's now 37 feet.

Another change in the plan deals with a southern embankment southeast of Horace, N.D. The former design included a straight embankment that went east to west, but Schneider said there's now additional mileage, thereby increasing the cost of embankment construction.

Schneider said that since the authority last updated the cost of the project in 2015, it identified new costs associated with utilities. The diversion channel running west of the metro area would meet a number of utilities, including electric and gas, that required memorandums of understanding and for some to be relocated, he said.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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