Diversion Authority Studies Project Construction Interim Impacts and Incremental Benefits

Phased Implementation Map 5-7-13_300_shadowborder (1)In an effort to minimize impacts and maximize the benefits during the construction of the 35-mile FM Area Diversion Project, the Diversion Authority is continuing to look at different construction sequences. A study to look at a three-phased approach was approved at the May 9 meeting of the Board.

The base plan for construction sequencing of the Diversion continues to be to start construction in the north and continue south in a linear fashion as recommended in the USACE Final Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment. The study approved in May will add options for consideration by looking at constructing the Diversion channel in three phases.

This approach has recently been labeled as a “Plan B”, but this is somewhat of a misnomer. This is not a “Plan B” for the Diversion Project, as the Diversion Project remains the same. This study is simply looking at whether there is a more effective way to sequence the construction and, if so, will analyze the short-term impacts and benefits during Project construction.

The phasing study is also considering several outside factors, such as the pace of funding from local, state, and federal sources. Funding from both States and the federal government for the construction of the Diversion channel will not happen until several federal approval milestones have been reached, including federal authorization, construction appropriation, and a signed project partnership agreement.

Construction of the entire Diversion Project will take, at minimum, eight years to complete. It should be understood that the impacts and benefits during that construction period will not be the same as those of the fully operational Diversion Project. With the phased approach, there may be an opportunity for the region to realize some incremental flood protection benefits prior to the completion of the Project. The impacts of different construction sequencing options have not been quantified in previous analysis. The approved study will explore these issues and give the Diversion Authority additional information when the time comes to make its decisions on the sequence of construction.

More on the Phasing Plan

The phasing plan has three specific phases for the Diversion plus other associated mitigation projects. Phase 1 includes the Diversion Channel from the Outlet to downstream of the Maple River and associated bridges. Phase 2 includes the Red River and Wild Rice River control structures, the Staging Area embankment, overflow embankment, tie-back levee, staging area land, and associated bridges and transportation improvements. Phase 3 includes the Diversion Channel from the Maple River to the Diversion Inlet structure, associated bridges, the Maple River Aqueduct, and the Sheyenne River Aqueduct.

Another aspect of the phasing plan’s development came about due to concerns about the pace of funding from local, state, and federal entities. The total cost of the Project is not expected to be paid all at once, so managing the interim finances is just as important as managing the interim impacts and benefits.

There is a strong financial commitment and expected time table of funding for the Project from the State of North Dakota and from locally voter-approved sales taxes in Fargo and Cass County. Once all approvals are granted, the federal share of the funding is not expected to come at the same pace as the other funding sources.

It has been speculated by some that the most effective use, resulting in the most incremental flood protection benefits, of Project dollars may be to construct Phase 1 in the North and Phase 2 in the South and then to complete Phase 3 to make the Diversion Project fully operational as additional funding becomes available. The study approved in May is expected to answers these questions.

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