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Hoeven says he's working to lower cost of F-M diversion; Burgum says Dayton wants permit by year's end

Gov. Doug Burgum sits with Moorhead mayor Del Rae Williams and Sen. John Hoeven during a meeting discussing the flood diversion project Wednesday, August 8, 2018, at City Hall in Fargo. Erin Bormett / Forum News Service1 / 2
Col. Sam Calkins from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers speaks at a meeting discussing the flood diversion project Wednesday, August 8, 2018, at City Hall in Fargo. Erin Bormett / Forum News Service2 / 2

FARGO — Under a bill pushed by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., the federal government would provide low-interest financing for water projects such as flood diversions, he told members of the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority Wednesday, Aug. 8.

It's part of a package of legislation he's been working on to ease the way for the estimated $2.4 billion project. Recent changes to the project to win approval from Minnesota regulators, who are still studying it, had raised costs by $200 million and made funding a concern for local and state officials.

Hoeven, joined by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, met with the Authority to get updates from them and to provide updates himself.

Burgum said he spoke to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton recently and was assured by his counterpart. "He remains committed to getting this done on a timeline while he's still in office. And with term limits in Minnesota, we know that means between now and end of this year," Burgum said.

Dayton and Burgum created a task force to bring diversion supporters and opponents together this past fall to overcome an impasse between the two sides and Minnesota regulators, who had refused to issue permits for the project.

Nathan Boerboom, a Fargo city engineer working on the permitting issue, reported that regulators have been "very engaged" and willing to offer feedback on how the project could comply with state laws.

Other legislative priorities for Hoeven include: allowing flood control projects on land paid for with federal flood-mitigation funds, which have been off limits to all construction; increasing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' construction budget; and changing the way the Office of Management and Budget measures costs and benefits to include savings tied to projects using public-private partnerships, known as P3.

The diversion channel that's the main component of the diversion project will be built with a P3, which provides more upfront funding through the private sector to allow faster construction at lower cost compared to traditional congressional appropriations.

The corps would build the diversion dam using congressional appropriations.

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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