President Obama has signed a bill into law which authorizes construction to move forward on the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Project. The signing of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) marks a critical step to acquiring federal funding for the Project, which will build permanent flood protection for approximately 200,000 people in North Dakota and Minnesota.
Dennis Walaker, Mayor of the City of Fargo, ND, was in attendance in Washington, D.C. as President Obama signed the bill. “The final plan we have today is going to provide the robust flood relief that the F-M area needs and deserves,” said Walaker. “Now that Congress and the President have approved the plan for the Diversion Project, we look forward to working with all interested parties to implement it in such a way as to limit the impacts where possible”
With authorization now secured, the Corps and the local sponsors, represented by Fargo, Moorhead and the Diversion Authority, will work toward signing a project partnership agreement which spells out the cost sharing and construction responsibilities of the Corps of Engineers and the local sponsors.
The significance of federal authorization for the Diversion Project cannot be understated, according to Col. Dan Koprowski, Commander of the Corps of Engineers St. Paul District. “Receiving authorization for construction is the most important event in a project’s history,” said Koprowski. “Congress is saying it’s within the public interest to build and makes it eligible for construction funding. This project is one of the top priorities of the Corps’ Mississippi Valley Division, and we will continue to work hand-in-hand with our local partners to ensure flood risk reduction is provided in a timely manner.”
WRRDA authorizes $846 million in federal funding for the Diversion Project. The Diversion Authority will now focus efforts on securing funding to begin construction. Federal funding is expected to be appropriated over time. Funding from the State of North Dakota can only be used for the Diversion once federal funding for construction is received. The State of North Dakota has already committed $175 million to the Diversion Project, in addition to legislative intent for an additional $275 million over the next four bienniums. Voters in the City of Fargo and Cass County have overwhelmingly approved two dedicated local sales taxes to help fund the Project. With modest growth, the sales taxes are expected to jointly raise $700 million over the life of the tax.