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Published August 26, 2010, 03:30 PM

Judge Give Corps Permission to Go on Private Land to Study Diversion

A judge has given Cass County's joint water board a permit to access land it had been unable to study along the route of a proposed Red River diversion project in the Fargo and Moorhead, Minn., area.

Judge grants access to land for diversion study

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A judge has given Cass County's joint water board a permit to access land it had been unable to study along the route of a proposed Red River diversion project in the Fargo and Moorhead, Minn., area.

The five families who own the eight parcels targeted by the civil litigation had refused to let engineers on their property to test the soil and survey for cultural artifacts, wetlands impact and hazardous materials.

More than 800 acres are subject to the judge's ruling. Plots covered by the court-issued permit are in essential areas where the proposed floodwater bypass channel would cross rivers, said Aaron Snyder, one of the co-managers of the Army Corps of Engineers study of the diversion.

Farmer Charlie Richards, one of the landowners, said he was not surprised by the ruling.

"I knew we were fighting City Hall," he said.

The proposed $1.5 billion diversion project would provide long-term flood control for the metro area, though some landowners downstream worry it might worsen the flood threat for them. Fargo-area residents have spent the last two springs battling major floods, including a record-setting crest in 2009 that damaged hundreds of homes and forced thousands to evacuate.

One of the arguments raised by landowners at an Aug. 9 hearing on the access dispute was that the diversion was being hastily approved. Judge Steven Marquart said in his order that it wasn't "the time or place for these arguments" concerning the project itself, and that the sole issue was whether granting access to the land was proper.

Landowners will be paid $250 for each hole drilled for soil testing, as well as for any damage to crops.

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Information from: The Forum, http://www.in-forum.com

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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