The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources approved a permit last week for a revised Fargo-Moorhead Flood Risk Management Project plan.
The permit approval followed the DNR’s completion of a supplemental environmental review that examined revisions to an earlier plan of the project.
The Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority now has the combined dam safety and public waters permit needed from the DNR for this Red River project. The permit includes more than 50 special conditions governing project design, construction, operation and maintenance.
This version, known as “Plan B,” represents a balanced approach to reducing flood risk in the Fargo, N.D.-Moorhead, Minn., metropolitan area, while protecting public safety and the environment, said DNR commissioner Tom Landwehr in a news release.
Landwehr said Minnesota officials recognize the need to reduce flood risk in the Fargo-Moorhead area in a way consistent with state laws that protect public health, safety and the environment.
Currently, approximately 169,000 acres in Fargo-Moorhead are subject to flooding in a 100-year event. Plan B will provide 100-year-level flood protection for about 57,000 of those acres, while exposing approximately 12,000 acres to new flooding potential. Most of the acreage newly subject to flooding will be south of Fargo-Moorhead.
“Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to build a large flood protection project without adversely affecting some people, and the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Project is no exception,” said Landwehr. However, according to Landwehr, the Plan B project meets the state’s high permitting standards, and does a better job balancing project benefits and adverse impacts between Minnesota and North Dakota than did the earlier proposed project.
Prior to issuing the permit for Plan B, the DNR completed the state’s thorough environmental review process, determining that the project’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) was adequate. Under Minnesota law, permit decisions cannot be made until environmental review is complete. During the entire six-year environmental review process, the DNR considered more than 1,800 public comments and analyzed 33 project alternatives.
Plan B permit details
As approved by the DNR, the project includes an approximately 30-mile long diversion channel on the North Dakota side of the Fargo-Moorhead area. Plan B also includes dams and other water control features on the interstate Red River and the Wild Rice River in North Dakota. View a project change map online at the DNR flood risk management webpage.
Compared with the previously proposed project that DNR rejected in 2016, DNR officials say Plan B creates a better balance between the two states regarding the number of acres impacted and benefited. It also improves on the mitigation of adverse impacts to property and natural resources and retains more existing floodplain.
Specifically, DNR officials say Plan B:
• reduces impacts to cemeteries, organic farms and other properties in Minnesota
• provides less loss of the existing floodplain by changing the alignments of the southern embankment and tieback levees on the Red River
• allows more water to flow through Fargo-Moorhead during flood events
In combination, these changes reduce the size of the newly flooded area south of town, and they also eliminate the need for a ring dike at Comstock.
The DNR permit for the project contains 54 conditions, or requirements.
Notable conditions address:
• required mitigation, including fish passage at Drayton Dam
• acquisition of property rights for all impacted property in Minnesota
• DNR review and approval of all final engineering prior to each construction phase (the project will be built in several phases over approximately 10 years)
• DNR review and approval of the project operation and maintenance plan prior to completion of the last construction phase
• coordination with Buffalo-Red River Watershed District on the Wolverton Creek crossing structure
Project next steps
The dam safety and public waters work permit is the major DNR permit required for project construction. However, additional DNR permits and approvals are required as identified in the dam safety and public waters work permit. In addition, the project must obtain all other required local, state and federal approvals. The current U.S. District Court injunction will also need to be addressed before project construction.
Source: Minnesota DNR