Judge allows construction to resume on Fargo-Moorhead flood protection project – Minnesota Public Radio News

Judge allows construction to resume on Fargo-Moorhead flood protection project - Minnesota Public Radio News

See Fargos new downtown flood wall hold the Red River back as it hits 35 feet

Judge John Tunheim on Monday modified an injunction he issued in 2017 which essentially stopped all construction on the $2.75 billion project.

The injunction was issued after Minnesota regulators denied a permit for the Red River flood diversion. The states chief concern was that the project protected land in North Dakota while increasing flooding in Minnesota.

In his order, Tunheim said he largely agrees with Diversion Authority arguments that Minnesota actually faces procedural harm that is "drastically reduced or eliminated completely" under the constraints of resuming construction. The judge noted that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has "explicitly approved" of the altered project after significant environmental review.

Judge Tunheim ruled the project could not proceed without a state permit. When local officials later submitted revisions to the project, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued a conditional permit late last year.

"This decision is a huge step forward in securing comprehensive flood protection for the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo metro area," the governor said. He added: "Allowing construction to begin now keeps current contracts in place, saves taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and moves the metro area another step closer to permanent flood protection."

• Earlier: Judge to decide if work can resume on Fargo-Moorhead flood project • In 2015: Officials hope public-private plan speeds Red River flood project

Judge Tunheim modified the injunction to allow construction of the diversion inlet struction, a control structure on the Wild Rice River in North Dakota, and move forward with the Public Private Partnership, an innovative funding concept the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says is a pilot for flood control projects nationwide.

“Theres a greenway, a walking path, that runs along the river, Thomas said. Come on back in the summer, take a walk on that, and imagine that theres eight feet of water above your head right now.”

Those surrounded by flood north of West Fargo also worry about how long water will stick around

“This is huge because it allows us to continue construction and not waste assets. One of our concerns is there is a $46 million contract out there with the [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] and they were going to shut down the contract on April 15,” said Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, who now expects work on the diversion channel inlet to start next week.

While the judge kept the injunction in place, Mahoney said the ruling gives local officials most of what they asked from the court.

“He gives us a modified injunction which allows the project to move forward,” the mayor said. “I presume one of the reasons he just wants to keep part of the injunction present is he wants to make sure that the Corps and the DNR to work well together.”

In his order, Judge Tunheim wrote that if the work he allows on the project does not comply with Minnesota permit requirements, the DNR may “apply to this Court for such relief as may be reasonable and necessary.”

An attorney for upstream opponents of the project, who argued the injunction should continue, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tunheims order allows work to resume on certain non-waterway aspects of the project. He wrote the work would do no harm as the court continues to consider whether to allow the entire project to move forward.

The project still faces regulatory hurdles. Two small towns and a watershed board have said they will contest the DNR permit for the project.

District Judge John Tunheim on Monday ruled work could resume on certain portions of a $2.7 billion diversion to steer the Red River safely past the cities in times of flooding. 

FARGO — Watch this bird's-eye view of the Red River through downtown Fargo-Moorhead on Monday as the river hits 35 feet.

Notice how the new Second Street flood walls installed last year hold back the rising river, which laps at the flood walls starting at 33.5 feet.

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This drone video was captured by Botlink and edited by Click Content Studios, a division of Forum Communications Co.

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