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Anticipating a flood of diversion workers, Cass County eyes crew camp laws

Construction of the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion could bring up to 7,000 jobs over six years.

Man camp
The Target Logistics facilities near Williston, North Dakota, accommodate more than 1,000 workers. An Alexandria-based company, Lodging Solutions is a business partner with Target Logistics. (Photo by Carrie Snyder, Forum News Service)
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FARGO — Cass County Commission Chairman Chad Peterson said it's only a defense mechanism.

After seeing what happened during the oil boom in western North Dakota with crew camps, or man camps as they are sometimes called, he said the county should be prepared with laws and regulations in case they're needed.

Crew camps are housing units specifically established to meet the housing demand from a temporary influx of workers, usually 10 people or more.

An estimated 7,700 workers will be needed in the area when construction on the $2.75 billion Fargo-Moorhead area flood diversion project gets into full swing next year. That construction is expected to last five to six years.

Other companies, such Amazon, are exacerbating a housing squeeze in the metro area. Amazon aims to hire about 1,400 workers and has already started operating the distribution and delivery business in Fargo.

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A goal of the Red River diversion project is to hire 50% of the workforce from within a 400-mile radius, so the crew camps are part of a back-up plan.

"This is just in case, if developers decide to put these in," Peterson said.

Cass County Planner Grace Puppe said the proposed county ordinance, approved unanimously by the county board and likely headed for approval, would provide guidance on locations for the camps and require approval of the county planning board and County Commission on any application with a permit good for up to three years with annual reviews for larger camps.

The applicant would be financially responsible for the full cost of restoring the property to its original state. To guarantee it would be done, there would be a hefty bond requirement to be posted before the operation of any facility.

The proposed law would also require a public hearing before any permit with notification given at least 10 days before to township officials and property owners within 1,000 feet.

Once built, the crew camp could be inspected at any time by the county sanitarian, planner or law enforcement with violations resulting in fines of up to $500 per day.

An almost 50-year veteran of the newspaper business, Amundson has worked for The Forum and Forum News Service for 15 years. He started as a sport reporter in Minnesota. He is currently the city and night reporter for The Forum. bamundson@forumcomm.com 701-451-5665
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