Project Leaders


Efforts to determine a way to protect the Fargo-Moorhead area from ongoing flooding began in the aftermath of the 1997 flood, which was a record at the time. Since then, there have been thousands of hours of discussions held, many engineered designs reviewed, 14 pieces of legislation passed, and more than 200 permits issued. The collaboration hasn’t just been across city, county and state lines but among more than 50 organizations, from utility companies to environmental agencies to area townships.

There have been many hundreds of people involved in the process, and more will join the effort in coming years. Here’s an introduction to just some of those people and the roles they have played in making permanent, reliable flood control a reality.

We know this won’t be an all-encompassing list, but we want to recognize as many as we can. If you or someone you know should be included, please email


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MaryscherlingIn Memory of Mark Bittner

Mark served as a city engineer with the Fargo Engineering Office for almost 43 years. He helped the community weather the record-breaking floods in 1997 and 2009 and helped lead planning efforts for the FM Area Diversion. He was a key reason why Fargo did not lose those fights. Prior to the 1997 flood, he incorporated GIS (geographical information system) mapping into the planning, a technology that was yet to be widely embraced by city engineers. By mapping the area, he ensured that the community was ready to fight the rising floodwaters. Mark died in May 2023.




MaryscherlingGwen Buchholz, Environmental Consultant

Organization: Permit Engineer Inc.

On Project Since: 2017

Gwen built working relationships with regulatory agencies and stakeholders while coordinating what’s needed to obtain environmental permits and meet the respective conditions. Her efforts have assisted with design and construction needs, helping to ensure the project meets or exceeds applicable regulations.

It’s a role outside of the public eye, but Gwen hopes what does resonate with the public is the “overall benefit of the program to reduce flood risks and to protect biological resources and recreational opportunities.”

Kevin Campbell 2022Commissioner Kevin L. Campbell, MFDA Board Member

Organization: Clay County, Minnesota, Commissioner

On Project Since: 2009

Kevin’s work on the project dates to its beginnings, when he co-chaired the Metro Flood Study Work Group, which was established after the record-breaking 2009 flood to develop a permanent flood protection solution. The group later expanded and evolved to become the Metro Flood Diversion Authority, and Kevin is a Board member.

As the project came together, he witnessed “the different government entities, including the states of Minnesota and North Dakota, go through the painful and lengthy deliberations to resolve the legal differences that finally made this project permittable in both states.”

Part of that process involved working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and federal government to secure the best location for the diversion to ensure it protected as many as possible.

“This project will be a contributing factor to assure the future economic growth and development of our region,” Kevin said. “Reducing or eliminating the threat of a catastrophic event will help secure the health and safety of our communities that were previously threatened by near-catastrophic flooding events.”


Matt Chiller, Vice President, Federal Government Relations

Organization: Jacobs (Program Management Consultant)

On Project Since: 2010

Matt oversees the federal government relations and advocacy for the diversion, which “has required a wide array of federal authorizations and funding over time.” Those authorizations came after many meetings across three administrations with elected leaders at the state and federal level where project leaders worked to “highlight the project’s needs and illustrate why the diversion is so critical to the community,” he said.

While the need for the diversion was clear in the Fargo-Moorhead region, it was more of a challenge to show it should receive federal funding. “We went from receiving zero federal funding, to eventually $5 million a year, to later $100 million a year before receiving the infrastructure bill’s influx of $437 million. This was a result of years of effort from the whole team.”

While receiving the needed funding was key to the project’s success, Matt said the accomplishment that really stands out is the “creation and implementation of the first ever public-private partnership program within the Corps. We created the program in 2014 and the diversion was the first ever to take advantage and show what was possible. It did wonders to move the project forward and expedite funding from the federal government.”


Mark Dayton, Former Governor

Organization: State of Minnesota

On Project: 20##-20##







Tom Fuchs 205x300

Tom Fuchs, Senior Construction Manager

Organization: Metro Flood Diversion Authority

On Project Since: 2022

“The magnitude of the entire FM Area Diversion comprehensive project is staggering,” said Tom, who joined the MFDA as its first construction manager. In that role, he reviews designs to ensure they meet project requirements and maintains connections with the many partnering agencies.

That ongoing coordination has been key to ensuring the project continues to move forward. In his short time on the project, Tom has already helped with coordination on both the federal and P3 portions of the project to overcome challenges and expedite project completion.

Madeline Gorghuber

Madeline Gorghuber, Lands Specialist

Organization: Metro Flood Diversion Authority

On Project Since: 2022

My role in this project is all things property management, including farmland leases, structure removal, right-of-entry requests, property maintenance contracts, property handover facilitation and board member support.

“This is a challenging, ever-moving project that takes time to understand and many, many people are coming together to make this happen,” she said. “This project not only affects you and your family but also your neighbors. Remember that one landowner’s cooperation can be a steppingstone for protection of thousands of people. I am grateful that the Fargo-Moorhead area has the opportunity to see-through a project this big and impactful to our city!”

Commissioner Tony Grindberg

Commissioner Tony Grindberg, MFDA Board Member

Organization: Cass County, North Dakota, Commissioner

On Project Since: 2013

Tony was instrumental in securing funding for the project and continues to help move it forward. In 2013, as a state senator from south Fargo, he led the effort in the North Dakota legislature to pass the initial $450 million in state funding that was included in the Water Commission budget. Three years later, as a city commissioner with Fargo, he chaired the MFDA Finance Committee. During that time, he helped outline a clear plan and secure another $300 million in state and federal funding through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and North Dakota.

Now, as a Cass County commissioner, he’s continuing to contribute by serving on the MFDA Board and Finance Committee.

Over those 10 years, the project met a series of challenges, the biggest of which, he said, “was consensus with the State of Minnesota. The task force led by Governors Doug Burgum (North Dakota) and Mark Dayton (Minnesota) largely resolved the legal issues and allowed the project to move forward with momentum.”

“This project represents a sense of regional pride that together we moved a mountain,” he said. “Upon project completion, no more sandbags!”

Peggy Harter 2022

Peggy Harter, Deputy Program Manager

Organization: Jacobs (Program Management Consultant)

On Project Since: 2020

Peggy helps to keep the numerous pieces of the diversion project connected and coordinated, ensuring the reviews and approvals are done in time to meet deadlines and budgets across various project teams. She regularly works to overcome challenges, and the one that stands out most for her is the coordination involved with a railroad near Horace, North Dakota. By considering alternative options, the MFDA saved millions of dollars by working with Red River Valley Railroad and BNSF to abandon the rail line that was only used a few times a year and instead moving the elevator the rail line served to a better location. This prevented the expense of designing, building and maintaining a railroad bridge across the stormwater diversion channel in that area.

“When complete, this project could truly save the Fargo-Moorhead area from a catastrophic flood event.  This not only saves the businesses and homes that are protected by the Diversion; but it would also save the schools; hospitals and many businesses that serve not only those living within the protected area but also many of those living outside of the project limits that travel to and from the Fargo-Moorhead area to work, doctor and attend higher education facilities.  I lived in Fargo in 2009 during the flood of record and we were so close to losing our town.  We are too important to our community and surrounding regions to lose our community to a flood.”

Katey Levihn

Katey Levihn, Diversion Channel Environmental Manager

Organization: Jacobs (Program Management Consultant)

On Project Since: 2021

Katey has helped the project with a vast array of environmental permits and considerations. Among the biggest challenges she helped the project overcome was obtaining the 2023 Section 404 Permit, which includes requirements for fish passage, migratory boards, seed mixes and more. She also helped get 10 environmental-related plans approved for the P3 developer, which allowed them to move on to the design and construction phases.

The FM Area Diversion project, Katey said, is “an asset to the community; first, because of the flood control, but also because of the amenities it will provide and the contribution to the local economy. With floods under control, the economy can boom as people realize Fargo-Moorhead is a safe, economically viable place to live and grow.”


Katrina Olson, Client Deliverables / Administrative Manager

Organization: Jacobs (Program Management Consultant)

On Project Since: 2019

Katrina feels obtaining the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan, also known as a WIFIA loan, from the Environmental Protection Agency was one of the MFDA’s biggest accomplishments so far. The $569 million loan has a low 2% interest rate, which will save taxpayers millions of dollars over loans with more standard interest rates.

“This project will save up to 235,000 lives — those lives may include your family, friend, work or school friend, someone who works in the neighborhood store, or someone who donates their spare time to a charity.”


Commissioner Mary Scherling, MFDA Board Member

Organization: Cass County, North Dakota, Commissioner

On Project Since: 2013

Commissioner Scherling has served as the Metro Flood Diversion Authority Board chairperson, Land Management Committee chairperson, and Planning Committee member. She encountered numerous project challenges during her service and made many trips on behalf of the project to Bismarck, North Dakota; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Washington, D.C. She also worked closely with the Minnesota DNR to secure permitting. This led to results.

“We were successful in resolving legal challenges and were able to move forward with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on key components of the project,” she said. “We secured additional state funding, signed a formal agreement with the Secretary of the Army for additional federal funding, and we secured a low-interest federal loan.”

Despite all of that, Mary noted that “none of this would’ve been possible without the overwhelming backing of the taxpayers of Cass County, the sacrifice of affected landowners, our dedicated staff, and elected county leaders that came before me.”

John Shockley 2022

John Shockley, General Counsel

Company: Ohnstad Twichell, PC

On Project Since: 2008

As the general counsel and bond counsel for the project, John prepared the financial plan and secured the WIFIA loan and other project financing. This involved meeting with state and federal leaders to advocate for the project and project funding as well as playing a key part of the P3 project by leading the procurement and negotiating and drafting the settlement agreement. “In short,” he said, “I have been involved in all aspects of the project.”

A lot of challenges came with that task during the life of the project, including negotiating the settlement agreement to resolve federal litigation. “It was challenging to deal with all of the parties and to craft a settlement agreement that would allow the project to go forward,” he said. Soon after, the WIFIA loan and other funding was secured.

“This is a transformative/generational project. 100 years from now the community will still be benefitting from the project,” John said. “The impact of having long-term flood protection for future generations cannot be understated and will ensure that community can survive and thrive long after I am gone.”



In Memory of Dennis “Denny” Walaker

After having served as the Fargo Public Works operations manager since 1989, Denny ran for and was elected as Fargo mayor in 2006.  His experience with snow removal and flood fighting made him a trusted voice for the ongoing flooding issues. When record flooding came in 2009, he was the public face of the fight. When federal agencies pushed for him to issue a complete evacuation order for the city, he instead inspired the community to continue the fight — a fight the city won. He was Fargo mayor when the Joint Powers Agreement was executed to form the MFDA, and he supported hiring the expertise necessary to implement the comprehensive project.  Denny died in December 2014, during his third term as mayor.




Robert Wilson 2022

Robert Wilson, County Administrator

Organization: Cass County, North Dakota

On Project Since: 2017

Robert serves as the co-executive director for the Metro Flood Diversion Authority.








Greg Yavicoli, Construction Manager

Organization: ASN Constructors

On Project Since: 2021

Greg joined ASN, the P3 developer’s design and construction arm, soon after it formed and helped the team break ground in 2022 and begin construction.

“I’ve been privileged to be able to contribute to the community on a professional and personal level,” he said. While it was a challenge “to get the project started on time and to get many cultures to come together and reach a common goal,” the team came together well and got to work.

“We are here for you!” Greg said when asked what he wants the public to understand about their work on the project. “This is to provide protection for them, on time, and that’s our goal. We want to take every step to minimize the impacts this has on the farming and family communities.”

Bob Zimmerman

Bob Zimmerman, City Engineer

Organization: City of Moorhead, Minnesota

On Project Since: 2008

Bob joined the project when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Feasibility Study began in 2008, and he has served as a technical adviser, providing reviews and input on a variety of the project’s technical issues. He has also led the development and construction of in-town flood improvements throughout Moorhead.

He’s been with the project through challenges and successes. The biggest challenge he helped to overcome was when, as a member of the Technical Advisory Group that supported the Governor’s Task Force, he helped negotiate the parameters for the “Plan B” design, which is the one being used. This led to the issuance of a critical permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“It would be difficult to identify a single accomplishment,” he said. “There were numerous technical, financial and legal accomplishments that resolved issues that would have halted or significantly delayed the project.”