Moorhead, Clay leaders ask Franken for another $30M toward diversion design

MOORHEAD – City and Clay County leaders met with Democratic Sen. Al Franken on Wednesday in the hopes of keeping federal dollars flowing in to fund work on the Red River diversion.

Franken discussed ongoing efforts to shore up Moorhead flood protection and the continued design of the diversion for nearly an hour with nine local officials.

Officials had one request of Franken: Secure another $30 million dollars toward the diversion project in the 2013 fiscal year budget, which begins Sept. 1.

Behind the scenes, local and federal engineers are plowing ahead with technical design, while Fargo-Moorhead leaders await congressional authorization for the project, a hurdle they hope to clear this year.

In the mean time, the federal share of costs is still necessary to move forward in advance of any construction on the diversion, Moorhead engineer Bob Zimmerman said.

Franken repeated his support for the $1.78 billion channel and commended local leaders on their continued work.

“All of us feel the same way about this: It’s absolutely necessary,” Franken said. “The longer this drags out, the more expensive this gets.”

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland also told Franken of the city’s continued work to build levees up to a level of 42.5 feet – short-term protection that’s meant to work in concert with the diversion, which should protect to 46.7 feet.

“We’re being very aggressive because we don’t know what’s going to happen with the diversion,” Voxland said, adding that the short-term protection is Moorhead’s first priority.

“Once we get we get our short-term mitigation finished, then we’ll go back to the Legislature and really sing the song about the diversion” to secure state funding, he told Franken.

Local leaders and staff who attended the meeting with Franken were: Voxland, Zimmerman, Moorhead City Council members Brenda Elmer and Nancy Otto, Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger, Clay County Commissioner Kevin Campbell, County Administrator Brian Berg, Diversion Authority public outreach spokesman Daron Selvig and Scott Ingvoldstad, of CH2MHill, the Diversion Authority’s project management firm.