The Flood Diversion Board of Authority is supporting the City of Oxbow, ND, where homeowners are in the process of relocating to the protected area of a new ring levee, and builders are constructing replacement homes in the area. As of mid-June, homeowners and builders are back in limbo following a federal judge’s order to stop work on the ring levee until the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is finished reviewing the FM Area Diversion Project.

At the June 11 meeting of the Diversion Authority, Erik Johnson, attorney for the Diversion Authority, stated the Authority’s legal position regarding the Oxbow situation in this way: “Our position is we are fully intending, and fully are, complying with the judge’s decision. We’ve stopped ten million dollars worth of construction. We are seeking clarification of the judge’s order to see how far reaching it is relative to home construction, and we understand the City of Oxbow is considering taking independent action regarding the lawsuit, and we will do everything to support them should they seek to do that.”

The Diversion Authority has asked the judge for clarification about whether or not the order means mitigation support for homeowners, who are required to relocate due to the ring levee’s construction, is included in the order to stop work. “I find it very difficult to believe that this ruling is intended to harm innocent homeowners who are trying to go on with their lives,” said Jim Nyhof, Mayor of Oxbow.

The ring dike will protect Oxbow, as well as the communities of Hickson and Bakke, from water that would be stored upstream of Fargo-Moorhead by the Diversion Project, and is being built as mitigation due to the Project’s impacts.

Feeling in Limbo

Clay Dietrich of Dietrich Homes, and President of Home Builders Association of Fargo Moorhead, said many builders working in Oxbow typically only build a small handful of homes each year, and are contracted with several other companies. “For many of these companies, if the work gets stopped, they’re going to get laid off,” said Dietrich. “We’d really struggle to find other work for them because for some of them, a lot of custom home builders are really small outfits. They maybe do two or three houses a year.

“When we look at putting together these custom homes, it’s about a two to three month process to draw the plans, get all the approvals, pick out all the interior finishes, place all that out, and get that process to the people with the Diversion Authority who are reviewing the buyouts. Many of the contractors are just at that point now,” Dietrich added.

Ring Dike will be Needed

In addition, Nyhof stated that regardless of the outcome of the DNR’s studies, “there is a ring dike around Oxbow at the end of the day. It will be part of the protection for our community and for the long-term protection of the Fargo-Moorhead community. It has to work together for that protection to work for both cities.”