FARGO, N.D. (AP) — An attorney for supporters of a Red River diversion project around Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, says opponents should decide whether they are going to ask a judge to halt the start of construction.
Officials with the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority are hoping to begin preliminary work this fall on a gated inlet structure, which is the first phase of the project. An attorney for upstream opponents told a federal judge in July that he would be filing an injunction in order to halt construction.
Robert Cattanach, diversion authority attorney, says in court documents that the uncertainty over the timing of the request may complicate “numerous regulatory, financial and political” decisions on the channel, including a November vote on whether citizens should extend sales taxes pledged to the project.
“While the diversion authority is optimistic that the ballot measure will be approved, a late-filed request for an injunction certainly has the potential to affect the outcome of that vote,” Cattanach said.
Gerald Von Korff, attorney for a group of upstream residents who have filed a lawsuit asking for a cheaper project that doesn’t flood farmland, said in his response filed Tuesday that any construction is premature. He did not say if or when his group would file for an injunction.
Cattanach said he doesn’t anticipate actual construction on the inlet structure to begin until next year, but said the authority would like to see bids awarded in the next few months.
U.S. Judge John Tunheim has not responded to Cattanach’s request to schedule a hearing to discuss the injunction.
Residents of Fargo and Cass County will be voting on separate measures to extend three half-cent sales taxes for flood control through 2084. The money would pay for about half of the $2.1 billion structure.
“I liken the diversion project to a marathon, with all of us knowing the location of the finish line,” Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said.
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