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Published March 18, 2010, 10:58 PM

Flood Group Votes for ND Diversion

By: Dave Kolpack, AP

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A work group studying a permanent solution for flooding at Fargo chose the largest and most expensive of three diversion plans on Thursday, drawing applause from a room packed with tired flood fighters.

The group recommended a $1.4 billion project to steer the Red River to the west of the city, which along with neighboring Moorhead, Minn., is dealing with major flooding for the second straight year.

"I think the work group got it right," said Mike Astrup, a rural Clay County, Minn., resident who attended the meeting. "They picked the plan that protects the greatest amount of people, provides the greatest number of benefits, and takes the most land out of the flood plain."

The work group included representatives from the two cities and from Cass County, N.D., and Clay County, Minn. Its recommendation is subject to approval by city and county governments, which will then have until the end of the year to decide how to pay for it.

The group also considered two smaller diversion channels, including one in Minnesota that was favored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and offered the greatest ratio of federal to local funding. Corps officials said Thursday they would reconsider funding for the larger North Dakota plan.

Depending on the final numbers from the corps, the state of North Dakota might be asked to pay about $300 million. Two Minnesota state lawmakers, Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, and Sen. Keith Langseth, D-Glyndon, believe Minnesota could find $100 million for the North Dakota project.

"Right now we're just about at mile 2 in a 26.2-mile marathon," North Dakota state Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, said after the meeting. "This is going to take a lot of work as we move forward. We have a lot of consensus obviously in the room, but we really need to widen that out."

A diversion project could take as long as 10 years to complete, corps officials said.

"One of our big tasks now is to sell the project," said Mark Bittner, the Fargo city engineer. "There are a lot of hurdles. Some of them are environmental, some of them are financial and some of them are just red tape."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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