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The F-M Area Diversion is among water projects from across the state of North Dakota that are seeking funding from the State for the 2019-2021 biennium. On January 10, representatives from the various projects testified at the State Capitol during a Senate Appropriations Hearing for SB 2020, the State Water Commission budget.

The Diversion was allotted 45 minutes to provide an update on the project’s status, as well as funding requests for the next two years. Governor Doug Burgum, a co-chair of the Governors’ Task Force for the project, provided an overview of the 16-member Task Force’s four parameters the group worked within during their five meetings in the fall of 2018.

The parameters include:

  1. Find solutions within the confines of relevant North Dakota, Minnesota and federal laws.
  2. Project must maintain federal authorization.
  3. Federal funding must be maintained. Senator Hoeven has been working tirelessly to secure additional federal dollars for the project, and any solution must remain eligible to receive federal funding to help reduce the burden at the state and local levels.
  4. Project must achieve 100-year flood accreditation by FEMA under the National Flood Insurance Program.

“Ultimately, the Task Force focused on solutions driven by variables related to engineering designs. The Task Force came to consensus on the level of protection the project should provide, with consideration for the need to be able to fight even bigger floods if necessary,” said Gov. Burgum.

Additionally, Gov. Burgum provided a comparison of the Diversion’s state funding, which amounts to 32 percent with the request made this session of an additional $300 million. That is substantially lower than other flood projects such as Minot and Valley City, which received 65 and 79 percent respectively of the projects costs from the State of North Dakota.

The Governor, using State Water Commission data, also pointed out the discrepancy between the state investment per dollar of property among five major flood projects.  For the protected area within Cass County, the proposed funding request would amount to seven cents of funding for every dollar of property, while Lisbon received more than 40 times that amount, at $2.84 for each dollar of property.

Gov. Burgum reminded the Committee members that the Diversion project will protect more than 170,000 residents, $20 billion in property value, and 11,000 homes. “These individual homeowner insurance premiums are funds that annually would be flowing out of the state’s economy. And this amount of money annually will be saved for our citizens with flood protection,” he said.

Chad Peterson, Cass County Commissioner, and Tony Grindberg, Fargo City Commissioner, also represented the Diversion project at the Senate Appropriations hearing. Peterson presented the features of the project’s Plan B and outlined the Minnesota DNR permit submittal process. The permit process included the creation of a supplemental EIS and environmental review of 33 project alternatives before the Minnesota DNR granted a Dam Safety and Public Waters Permit for the project on December 27.  The permit includes 54 conditions related to design, construction, operation and maintenance.

Peterson also covered the $2.75 billion updated cost estimate for the project’s Plan B and outlined the legislative priorities for the 2019-2021 biennium, which includes a request for $166.5 million. The Diversion is also requesting a $250 million long-term, low-interest loan that will be be repaid with local sales tax, and for legislative intent of the State’s commitment to provide timely assurance for the P3 procurement process.

Before wrapping up his portion of the presentation, Peterson provided an update on the status of the lawsuit against the project.  He also outlined four project priorities for 2019, which include mitigating the project’s impacts, acquiring necessary land rights, continuing project design, and restarting the procurement phase of the Public-Private Partnership.

At the end of the testimony, each of the Senate Appropriations Committee members were provided copies of the Gov. Burgum and Peterson’s testimony, the Governors’ Task Force Report, and the Diversion Cost Estimate presentation that was given to the Flood Diversion Board of Authority in December.