Congress is nearing final passage of a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which is expected to contain authorization for the F-M Area Diversion Project. A bipartisan conference is currently working to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate with overwhelming support earlier this year.
Both versions authorize construction to begin on the Diversion Project. The conference committee's work would be one of the last steps before final votes occur on a revised bill which would be submitted to President Obama, who is expected to sign it.
In addition to authorizing the Diversion project, the legislation offers a comprehensive plan for improving the country's flood-control projects and modernizing ports and waterways.
Corps Releases Final Environmental Assessment Documents on Proposed Diversion Project Changes
Col. Daniel C. Koprowski, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, has signed documents which detail proposed improvements and modifications to the Diversion Project. The documents update the Supplemental Environmental Assessment (EA), which focused on the proposed changes to the project since the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) dated July, 2011.
The modifications include:
(1) Diversion channel modifications, including alignment shifts and channel cross-section modifications;
(2) The addition of levees and floodwalls in downtown Fargo;
(3) A ring levee around the communities of Oxbow, Hickson, and Bakke, ND;
(4) The addition of gates to the diversion inlet.
The Supplemental Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was prepared and coordinated in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The environmental review indicated that while the proposed modifications would result in some changes in the location, timing and magnitude of effects on some resources, the overall types and scope of impacts would not be an appreciable change from what was described in the EIS. An amended Clean Water Act Section 404(b)(1) evaluation was also prepared as part of the EA process. After final review of the comments received on the EA, the Corps made minor modifications to the documents. The Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and the Clean Water Act Section 404(b)(1)Evaluation Supplement were signed by the District Engineer, Colonel Koprowski, on September 19.
Diversion Authority and Oxbow Sign Agreement for Ring Levee
The Diversion Authority and City of Oxbow, ND have approved a finalized “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU), which outlines each organization’s roles and responsibilities regarding the construction of a ring levee for Oxbow.
Under the MOU, homes in the Oxbow area would remain within the Diversion Project's Staging Area, but would be protected from flooding to a 500-year level. The proposed ring dike will also include a number of lots for other residences impacted in the Staging Area to offer a relocation option as part of mitigation.
The MOU provides a clear outline of what the Diversion Authority will do to take care of those impacted.
The agreement is contingent on the Corps’ approval of the Oxbow/Hickson/Bakke levee in the pending Environmental Assessment (EA), and the execution of a construction Memorandum of Understanding with the Corps to build the levee before authorization of the Diversion Project.
The estimated cost for the Oxbow/Hickson/Bakke ring levee is $65 million. All Diversion Authority costs are within the proposed budget for the project.
North Dakota Legislative Session Ends with Support for F-M Area Diversion
North Dakota House Bill 1020, which includes financial support for the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Project, was signed into law by Governor Jack Dalyrmple on May 2, 2013. The legislation provides $100 million for flood protection efforts in Cass County. The legislation also provides legislative intent for a total of $450 million in state funding for the F-M Area Diversion Project once certain conditions are met. The $100 million is included within the total $450 million.
Corps and Diversion Authority Move Forward with New Alignment
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, in cooperation with the Flood Diversion Board of Authority, have agreed on the final diversion channel alignment for the proposed Fargo-Moorhead (FM) Area Diversion Project.
The changes result in significant cost savings, reduce the number of impacted residential structures, reduce impacts to Richland and Wilkin counties, and increase efficiency and operation of the diversion channel.
Changes were made to the western alignment, south of the Maple River to the Sheyenne River, and the southern alignment. The western alignment change resulted in moving the diversion channel west of the Highway 94/Raymond interchange and the existing Sheyenne Diversion Project, leaving the Horace to West Fargo diversion channel separate from the proposed diversion channel.
Changes to the southern portion of the project included adding gates on the inlet structure, moving the diversion approximately one mile north, adding levees through town and eliminating Storage Area 1.
When the project is authorized, the Corps could sign a partnership agreement with the Diversion Authority, which would allow processes to begin for construction and the acquisition of properties.
Construction is expected to take several years to complete.