Diversion supporters make their case to Senate appropriators | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Diversion supporters make their case to Senate appropriators

Jan 25, 2019

Martin Nichiolson with CH2M/Jacobs testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee (1/24/19).
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Supporters of the FM Diversion project made their case for increased state funding to the state Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Diversion Authority is asking for another $300 million, based on the new “Plan B” for the project – bringing the estimated cost to around $2.7 billion.

"From the standpoint of, 'Is this the right project to protect against a $20 billion loss in that metropolitan area?' Yes," said Martin Nicholson of CH2M/Jacobs, the program management consultant hired by the Diversion Authority. "It is still quite reasonable, and affordable, in respect to being able to pay it back with sales tax revenues."

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney told the Committee the Authority is ready to get started buying property and preparing for the start of construction.

"We have the permit (from the Minnesota DNR), and we're ready to go," Mahoney told the committee.

Diversion supporters have now asked a federal judge in St. Paul to throw out the lawsuit brought by upstream interests to stop the project. Their argument is the original injunction concerned “plan A,” not “plan B.”

Diversion opponents argue some of the claims made by supporters aren't accurate.

"They do not have a permit yet," said Richland County resident Cash Aaland, in an interview. "Fargo has not been released from the injunction."

Aaland said the federal judge told the Diversion Authority it will not have a permit until the injunction is removed.

The injunction has 54 different items the Diversion will have to meet.

"Those are not 'show-stoppers,'" Nicholson said.

The Committee is still working on the proposal, which is part of the larger Water Commission budget bill.