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Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority halts a legal challenge to DNR

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney speaks during a 2015 press conference. File photo / Forum News Service

FARGO — The Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority has decided to cease legal action challenging Minnesota regulators for denying a permit for a dam, the group said in a statement Thursday, Sept. 14.

The group said it was encouraged by recent news that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton wanted to speak with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum about flood protection for Fargo-Moorhead.

"We know we are going to have to make some changes to the Project. We want to work together with the State of Minnesota and all interested parties on a flood protection project that can serve the interests of both states and the affected communities," Diversion Authority Chairman and Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said in a statement. "We realize we cannot do that genuinely if we are still in ongoing litigation over the original permit as proposed."

"Solving problems through litigation is not ideal," authority Vice Chairwoman and Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams said in a statement. "It is my hope that the parties can come together and ultimately submit a new permit that the DNR will approve."

There are several legal actions involving the $2.2 billion project, which includes a diversion channel and a dam controlling floodwater entering the channel.

Upstream opponents of the dam and later the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sued the Diversion Authority and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, contending the project can't start without a DNR permit because the dam would eventually enter Minnesota. After the corps began work on the dam in North Dakota without a permit, a federal judge halted work, suggesting that the DNR's permit requirement has legal merit.

The DNR has said it wouldn't issue a permit because the dam takes too much empty land out of the floodplain, contradicting state law.

Authority staff had been talking with DNR staff about modifications to the project, but the authority also challenged the DNR's permit decision in Minnesota court. This is the legal action that authority officials have ceased.

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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