Update provided to ND Water Topics Overview Committee
Metro Flood Diversion Authority Executive Director Joel Paulsen presented a regular quarterly update to the North Dakota Legislature’s Interim Water Topics Overview Committee (“Committee”) on December 10, 2019.
The presentation addressed the recent $59 million construction contract awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Wild Rice River Control Structure. Paulsen also discussed the continued progress on construction of the Diversion Inlet & Control Structure and the procurement of a P3 developer to design, construct, operate, and maintain the 30-mile Diversion Channel component.
“The North Dakota Legislature has been a valuable partner in providing permanent flood protection for our region,” Paulsen said. “We are always glad to have an opportunity to provide the Committee with an update about permitting, construction, and our financial plan for the Project.”
The Committee discussed various topics including the status of permits and legal engagements related to the FM Area Diversion Project (the “Project”). Paulsen presented an update regarding the ongoing land acquisition process that has successfully reached voluntary agreements on more than 340 properties, including approximately 50 percent of the lands needed for the Diversion Channel. Another topic of conversation focused on the Project’s financial plan and other funding partners, including the federal government and the State of Minnesota. The Committee recommended an audit of the Project finances to ensure financial accountability and confidence in the Project as it considers additional funding next legislative session.
“While continued construction and funding progress is being made by the Corps and our local entities, we know there will be questions about the complexity of the funding for the Project,” said Cass County Commissioner Mary Scherling, 2019 Chair of the Diversion Authority. “The Cass County Auditor and City of Fargo Finance Director, as the Authority’s fiscal agent, already take part in regular audits. In addition, we have monthly public meetings of our Finance Committee and our Diversion Authority Board where every financial transaction is reviewed by elected officials, and all are welcome to attend.”
“The idea of an audit is something our Finance Committee was already considering and was contemplating the use of independent local accounting firm. We have strong transparent financial processes in place, with multiple reviews and financial controls in place. Further our reimbursements from the State of North Dakota are additionally reviewed by the Office of State Engineer,” Paulsen said. “As we move further into building this Project, we want to make sure all our partners are confident in the processes we use to budget and spend the resources entrusted to the Diversion Authority.” The Finance Committee will resume discussion if engagement of a firm for an audit for the Project at its regular January 22 meeting.
During the most recent session of the North Dakota Legislature, the state approved an additional $180 million in funding for the Project. This brought the state’s commitment to the project to a total of $750 Million.