An Update on the FM Diversion Project
An Update on the FM Diversion Project
The FM Area Diversion Project has been an over decade-long policy effort fueled by The Chamber, community organizations, residents and policy makers advocating for critical flood protection.
Now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. On June 18th, 2021 a momentous step was celebrated as the Public-Private Partnership (P3) developer for the immense project was selected, propelling permanent flood protection forward. The Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority Board announced that Red River Alliance, with a bid of nearly $935 million, was selected as the P3 developer for the project. Along with this announcement, a $569 million federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan was also announced. This loan accompanies $435 million allocated in North Dakota’s 2021 Bonding Bill (HB 1431), which passed in the 67th North Dakota Legislature and was signed by Governor Burgum.
Though segments of construction are already underway, this developer selection signals the beginning of the over six-year build process for the key piece of the project. For all of the project supporters, this milestone is something to be proud of.
A Community Effort
The innovative and comprehensive project has been in the works for more than ten years. The project will bring permanent flood protection to the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo area, and will also protect surrounding rural communities. It will include 19 bridges and will protect more than 235,000 residents. Even more exciting? The 30-mile-long project will be the first of its kind in the United States.
The project has received support and advocacy from officials on both sides of the river, the Diversion Authority Board and The Chamber’s Business Leaders for Permanent Flood Protection Taskforce. Without the critical collaboration of so many, the project wouldn’t be possible.
The Chamber’s Taskforce
As The Chamber continues to advance its public policy and advocacy efforts, the involvement of The Chamber’s Business Leaders for Permanent Flood Protection Taskforce has been crucial. The taskforce, formed in 2013 and chaired by Tom Dawson, Chairman, Dawson Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC Company, is made up of over 40 local business leaders who are passionate about advancing permanent flood protection for the region.
Jon Riewer, president and CEO of Eventide and member of the Taskforce, has seen the impact of previous floods and wanted to be part of solving the problem. “I chose to support permanent flood protection through the diversion to protect our community’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Riewer. “Having been a part of resident relocations due to the flood of 2009, I felt strongly that our community, even though controversial, needed to take any steps necessary to assure these flood related events would never happen again.”
From taking bus trips to the legislature in Bismarck, writing letters to the editor, to making phone calls to officials and everything in between, the Taskforce has put in a tremendous amount of work to make the project a reality.
Marti Kaiser, CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of REALTORS, and member of the Taskforce, recognized the impact another flood could have on property owners in the region. “Without the diversion, flood insurance could have spiked for over 11,000 property owners in flood prone areas. This would have forced some homeowners out of their homes and caused a decrease in property values,” remarked Kaiser.
“This is an exciting time for the region,” said Chamber President/CEO, Shannon Full. “The Chamber has been a strong advocate of permanent flood protection for over a decade. This project will be a major asset to our business community providing growth opportunities through economic certainty.”
Now that the Diversion Authority has selected Red River Valley Alliance for P3 Partnership, the next steps are to finalize the Project Agreement with Red River Valley Alliance and execute the Project Agreement by the end of August 2021. Following implementation of the Project Agreement, the parties intend that construction will begin in late Q1 2022.
The selection of the P3 developer is a major step in the diversion’s journey to completion. As the next phase of the project approaches, The Chamber, Taskforce, public officials and community members remain committed and excited.