FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Attorneys for the federal government are asking a judge to throw out a lawsuit by a group opposed to a plan to divert high water from the Red River around Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn.

The Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority in September filed a complaint against the nearly $2 billion project, which would require a staging area south of the two cities during major floods.

The group has said it is not trying to stop the project but wants the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to come up with a cheaper plan that doesn’t flood farmland in Richland County in North Dakota and neighboring Wilkin County in Minnesota.

The corps said in its response filed earlier this week that other options were studied and the group has failed to make a valid claim.

“Plaintiffs lack standing to make the claims asserted,” the corps lawyer state in court documents.

Nathan Berseth, spokesman for landowners south of Fargo, said Thursday that he’s waiting to see how the corps and government lawyers “justify their hopeful conquest to rob the rural land owners of their rights and land for the sake of urban sprawl.”

The response by the government denies claims by the Richland-Wilkin group that construction of a planned ring dike around three communities south of Fargo before the diversion is approved by the state of Minnesota will cause “irreparable harm.”

The corps says Oxbow routinely floods under existing conditions, and Hickson and Bakke flood in times of major high water, regardless of whether the diversion is built.

The project has been authorized by Congress, which technically allows construction to begin. Federal funding needs to be appropriated each year to cover construction costs, which would be shared by local, state and federal governments.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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