Agreement Reached to End Lawsuits and Compensate for Impacts from the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Project
October 26, 2020 – A Settlement Agreement (Agreement) to resolve federal and state litigation related to the FM Area Diversion Project was signed October 26, 2020 by leaders of the Metro Flood Diversion Authority and a number of upstream entities. Signers to the agreement included the Metro Flood Diversion Authority (Authority), the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Agreement (JPA), the City of Comstock, the City of Wolverton, and the Buffalo Red River Watershed District (BRRWD).
The Agreement includes provisions for the Authority to provide compensation and mitigation to political subdivisions located within Richland County, ND and Wilkin County, MN for potential impacts from the Diversion Project. The Agreement also includes a joint submittal to dismiss all federal and state lawsuits and proceedings that challenge the Diversion Project.
“The Judge and legislative leaders in both North Dakota and Minnesota have urged us to find common ground in order to move forward with flood protection for the Fargo-Moorhead area, and that’s what this agreement does.” Dr. Tim Mahoney, Chair of the Authority, said. “This agreement is monumental and I really commend all sides for coming together to find resolution. I think future generations will be grateful for the tremendous effort put into this.”
“We believe this agreement gives us the local control to ensure that our concerns over the impacts in Richland County from the diversion project will be adequately addressed.” Richland County Commissioner Nathan Berseth said. “This agreement also recognizes the concerns of our school districts, townships, and ensures the City of Christine is not negatively affected from flooding due to the project.”
“We want Moorhead and Fargo to have flood protection, but it is paramount that our concerns in Wilkin County also be addressed,” Wilkin County Commissioner Dennis Larson said. “The project has changed many times since we formed the JPA and we need to make sure programs are in place to protect those who are impacted.”
The Agreement includes a joint submittal to dismiss the federal lawsuit before Chief Judge John R. Tunheim and any pending appeals, the Contested Case Hearing currently before Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearing challenging the Minnesota DNR issuance of the Dam Safety and Public Waters Work Permit No. 2018-0819, and the case in Minnesota state court related to the BRRWD permit.
To adequately compensate for the potential impacts from the Diversion Project an Economic Impact Relief Fund (Relief Fund) is being established that will be funded by the Authority and administered by the JPA. The Relief Fund will be funded with an initial deposit of $35 Million and will include additional deposits over time after construction of the project is completed by the Authority until the total reaches $75 Million.
The Agreement also includes funding to complete or construct infrastructure related to flood risk reduction projects in the City of Christine, the City of Comstock, the City of Georgetown, and the City of Wolverton. Other provisions relate to the mitigation of potential impacts to upstream cemeteries, development of a crop insurance program, a post-operation debris removal program, relief to impacted businesses, and further discussion related to the flexibility within the mitigation requirements on upstream structures.
The Authority is comprised of the City of Fargo, City of Moorhead, Cass County, Clay County, and the Cass County Joint Water Resource District.
The Minnesota DNR or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are not formal signatories to the Agreement and nothing in the agreement will diminish the regulatory or permitting authority of either party, although both will be dismissed from the pending lawsuits.
For more information about the Agreement or about the FM Area Diversion Project visit FMDiversion.gov.