St Paul, MN (KROC AM News) -The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has dealt a major blow to the planned Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project.

The agency Monday denied a permit application for the project, which means it cannot proceed in its current design. Plans had been made to begin work on the $2.2 billion project this fall.

The Minnesota permit was the remaining significant regulatory requirement that needed to be approved before work could begin.

Minnesota DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said his staff identified several significant concerns about the proposed project in May. He says although the permit applicant developed a number of new provisions in response to the concerns, issues remain that have not been sufficiently addressed.

Landwehr says about half the land that would be protected is rural. He also notes the immediate Fargo/Moorhead area already has an extensive flood protection system.

Last month, Governor Dayton criticized the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers for promoting the project before the DNR’s decision had been announced.

In announcing his decision, Landwehr said, “The DNR has great empathy for people who experience flooding. The State of Minnesota has a very active program to help communities reduce their flood risk. We agree that enhanced flood protection is warranted for some places in the project area. However, the proposed project is not the right way to achieve that enhanced protection, and the project cannot be permitted under Minnesota law.”

Landwehr said the DNR denied the permit application for three primary reasons, following its careful consideration of the proposed project and applicable Minnesota Statutes and Rules:
1. The DNR concluded that the proposed project does not meet the requirement to be reasonable, practical, protect public safety and promote public welfare. Fifty-four percent of land removed from flooding is sparsely developed and rural. Fargo and Moorhead already have extensive flood protection infrastructure in place, with additional levees planned. Existing and planned infrastructure, in combination with emergency measures, is a minimal impact solution to address flooding in Fargo and Moorhead during large floods and is thus more consistent with Minnesota law.
2. The project is not consistent with some state and local land use and water management plans in the project area. The concerns of affected upstream communities have not been addressed. The project is inconsistent with and undermines Minnesota policy and goals relating to floodplain management.
3. Mitigation, monitoring and adaptive management needs remain that have not been sufficiently addressed. Some potential impacts are anticipated to be severe and may be irreversible. The permit applicant’s funding source for mitigation, monitoring and adaptive management has not been determined or sufficiently detailed.

The proposed project would control flows through the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area via a dam and diversion channel system. Major project design features include two dams located upstream of the major population center, two embankments, a diversion channel, a 38,400-acre staging area, and in-town levees and floodwalls.  

Read more on the decision here.


More From KROC-AM