Diversion-Authority-MeetingThe Flood Diversion Authority has approved preliminary guidelines, proposed by the City of Oxbow, ND, for building a ring levee around that community.

At the Diversion Authority meeting on January 10, members approved a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which is in response to the City of Oxbow’s requested conditions for supporting construction of the levee.

The ring levee is being proposed as mitigation for the staging area needed for the diversion channel. The staging area would be used to store water when the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Project operates during times of severe flooding.

The City of Oxbow submitted a request with 12 conditions of an agreement to build the levee to protect properties from floodwater. Seven of the conditions are addressed by Corps of Engineers policies. Five of the conditions require a response from the Diversion Authority.

The conditions are outlined in the draft MOU, which is included in the Diversion Authority January meeting packet. One of the requests is that the Diversion Authority offer buyouts to all Oxbow residents who do not want to live within the levee.

“This was a big deal for Oxbow when we first created this,” said Jim Nyhof, Oxbow Mayor, at a recent meeting with upstream-area landowners. “We’ve been in a period of limbo for going on three years now. One of our big goals of this whole project and this whole analysis of the ring levee process was to eliminate that limbo and return marketability back to the homes in Oxbow. We wanted the opportunity for anyone who wanted a buyout in Oxbow to get one.

“The Diversion Authority has taken the position of saying, ‘We will create this ring levee for you. We will replace your infrastructure, provide buyouts to those who need them, and we’ll do all that before the project is even authorized or funded,'” Nyhof continued. “This gives us a great opportunity today to get to 500 year flood protection for the City of Oxbow, and some protection for the residents who are in the footprint of the levee. This puts an end to the limbo and puts marketability back to our community.”

In attempting to resolve these requests, a number of discussions have taken place between Authority and City of Oxbow staffs. During the discussions, the City of Oxbow requested the MOU be developed to clearly capture what both sides were agreeing to. Authority staff will continue negotiations with the City of Oxbow and present a final MOU to the Board for approval in February, when the Authority is expected to decide whether to include the ring levee for Oxbow in a pending Environmental Assessment.

The ring levee would also be built for Hickson and Bakke, if those communities want it. If residents decide they do not want the ring dike, property buyouts would likely follow federal timelines which do not anticipate buyouts before 2018.

A public meeting and comment period will be held in May. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process is slated for completion in July, when a decision on the ring levee will be finalized.

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