Colorado firm picked to manage Red River diversion project

FARGO – Hiring a firm that will manage administrative and technical work on the Red River flood diversion project could cost up to $11,100 a day for the next six weeks.

Local government leaders voted Thursday to hire a Colorado-based engineering firm to serve as their contracted project management team.

Members of the Flood Diversion Authority said CH2M Hill offered the best presentation, background and expertise out of four firms interviewed Tuesday.

Fargo and Moorhead city engineers said they’re struggling to complete necessary feasibility work for the project – especially when compared to Army Corps of Engineers staff, who are already well into designing the diversion.

“The sense of urgency is upon us,” said Fargo Administrator Pat Zavoral.

Added Moorhead City Engineer Bob Zimmerman:

“The corps is moving ahead rapidly, and we’re dragging behind. We’re having a hard time organizing schedules just for meetings, let alone accomplishing any real work.”

The project management firm will help coordinate and organize all the various moving parts involved with securing the Fargo-Moorhead diversion, said Tim Mahoney, co-chairman of the Diversion Authority and a Fargo city commissioner.

As the project goes through intensive design over the next 18 months, various surveys need to be conducted, and land needs to be acquired before any construction could begin.

The complexity and special skills required for those tasks and others is simply beyond what city engineering staff and local consultants can accomplish.

“I don’t think anybody here understands how big of a project this is,” Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said. “This whole process is far beyond the majority of people in this building.”

Cass County Administrator Keith Berndt said CH2M Hill offers extensive experience in major water projects like this one and in navigating the political red tape of Washington, D.C., to secure the needed federal funding.

The chief of the Army Corps is expected to sign off on the project in December, after which Congress must both authorize and fund the estimated $1.8 billion diversion.

The Diversion Authority approved Thursday a 45-day contract with CH2M Hill – which stipulates the firm’s staff on the project will be paid hourly rates for services between $85 and $350, up to a maximum cost of $500,000.

After those six weeks, the Diversion Authority expects to enter into a more long-term contract for the firm’s services, possibly to be renewed on an annual basis, Zavoral said.

CH2M Hill executives said they plan to set up an office in Fargo for the duration of the project so that all work on the F-M diversion will be done locally.

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