- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Fargo’s acting mayor said Thursday he’s not sure how much money the city can get from the Legislature this session for smaller flood control projects, but he still believes it’s possible to break ground in 2016 on the massive Red River diversion project.

A bill introduced at the start of the session had called for Fargo to receive $120 million that could be used on building dikes and levees within the city limits. Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney says that part of the bill has been put on hold because of the revised lower budget projection due to slumping oil revenues.

“We’re trying to figure out where they’re going to land with their budget,” Mahoney said. “Whether it’s $60 million, $40 million or $20 million, I’ll take whatever they give me.”

The key provision of the bill still in place is the state’s commitment to pay up to $570 million for its share of the nearly $2 billion diversion that would move floodwaters around Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minnesota. The 36-mile channel has been authorized by Congress but federal funding for the project would need to be appropriated each year to cover construction costs.

Mahoney said the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told public officials in a meeting last week that the corps views the project as a top priority.

“If we can put shovels in the ground next year, I would be jumping up and down,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney and his upcoming opponent for the Fargo mayoral race, Brad Wimmer, were among a group of Fargo city and business leaders who met with lawmakers Thursday afternoon in Bismarck for an update on flood funding. Wimmer said that while the final flood bill is “up the air,” legislative leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, of Dickinson, assured the group that the diversion plan is secure.

“Sen. Wardner said he was not going to leave Fargo to flood,” Wimmer said. “He also said that western North Dakota is one of their biggest priorities. So, they’ve got both, but he said Fargo is fine and they’re going to get the project done.”

Fargo Republican lawmakers Al Carlson and Blair Thoreson, two of the sponsors of the Fargo flood control bill, did not respond Thursday to requests for interviews.

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