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Corps approves diversion project

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Proponents of the Red River Diversion crossed a major hurdle here Friday after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Review Board approved the project to move forward.

The CWRB is comprised of five to six members of the Corps' Senior Management.

"The corps unanimously and quickly approved the project," said Cass County Engineer Keith Berndt.

Now, the report will be sent back for state and local review before the Chief of Army Corps of Engineers signs a final report.

"More than likely because of their approval (the report) will get signed," said Cass County Chairman Darrell Vanyo, who said he was very pleased with the committee's approval Friday. "Usually when this board approves a project and gives its approval, it always ends up it will pass the other major hurdle of the chief's report."

Once the chief's report is issued, the project can be considered for congressional legislature.

Berndt and Vanyo were in Washington along with Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple. All three North Dakota legislators and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar were also on-hand to show their support for the project.

"We had outstanding representation from our entire congressional delegation," Berndt said.

Klobuchar, D-Minn., also met Friday with Major General Merdith W.B. (Bo) Temple, acting chief of engineers and

acting commanding general for the corps, to discuss moving the project forward.

"The rising river doesn't divide Minnesota and North Dakota - it unites us. And that is the spirit of solidarity and partnership that is driving our efforts to create a permanent flood protection project," Klobuchar said in a press release.

Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., stressed the financial implications of flood fighting for the area.

They said if the Fargo-Moorhead region were to lose a fight against a 100-year flood, damages would be nearly $6 billion. A 500-year flood would inundate nearly all of Fargo and a large portion of Moorhead, causing more than $10 billion in damages.

On Wednesday, legislators from both states sent a letter to President Obama asking to include $30 million in his fiscal year 2013 budget for the diversion.

Reuer is a writer for The Forum of Fargo-Moorehead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.