Case Heard in Becker County; Record to be Prepared
Diversion Authority representatives were in Minnesota District Court in Becker County this morning for a hearing regarding the challenge filed against the permit denial by the Buffalo Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) earlier this year. The parties appeared before Judge Michael D. Fritz.
The Court made no decisions, but requested the BRRWD create an administrative record, or compilation of historical documents, related to their decision for the parties and court to review by February 1, 2020. The Court also heard arguments related to a motion by the Richland-Wilkin County Joint Powers Agreement to join the case.
“This case is moving forward and we are glad to see the court creating a schedule of next steps for early in the new year. Our teams worked in good faith for months with the BRRWD to address their concerns and avoid litigation and hope to get back to the point where we can once again work in full cooperation with them,” Executive Director of the FM Area Diversion Project Joel Paulsen said.
“This case is not affecting our construction timelines and we are still moving forward with bringing a Public Private Partnership (P3) on board in late 2020,” Paulsen said. “The Corps is busy constructing the Diversion Inlet and Control Structure and they recently awarded the contract to build the Wild Rice River Control Structure, which will break ground in early 2020.”
The Diversion Authority maintains the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permit issued in January of 2019, does not allow for a local watershed board to prevent a regional project from moving forward. A separate contested case hearing, where the Minnesota DNR is defending the permit issued to the Diversion Authority, will be heard in June 2020.
“The Project continues to move forward despite this litigation, however we would prefer to work with the BRRWD to define permit conditions that work for both partners. When the Minnesota DNR granted a permit for the Diversion Project the decision was clear on the limited powers of local permits.” Paulsen said. “I fear further litigation will only diminish the effectiveness of the Watershed’s valuable involvement in what is likely the largest flood risk reduction project the watershed will ever have,”