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Red River Valley
Giving up a lot for a little?
Diversion Authority, Horace agreement questioned by upstream leader

The city of Horace, North Dakota, considered intervening in litigation against the multi-billion Fargo-Moorhead Diversion.

Instead, they’re partnering in a cost-share agreement with the Diversion Authority and are no longer opposing the project.

Horace will eventually receive up to $5 million from the Diversion Authority for its infrastructure projects. The Diversion Authority receives another partner in efforts to move forward with the project, whose latest cost estimate ranges from $2.8 billion to more than $3.1 billion.

“The check is not yet in the bank. Our infrastructure work is not happening tomorrow,” said Horace Mayor Kory Peterson.

Horace, located less than 20 miles south of Fargo, is working on putting together a package of all its upcoming infrastructure needs. They could change as time goes by, Peterson said. The city is expected to receive two payments of $2.5 million.

Diversion Authority Chair Mary Scherling was unavailable for additional comment Thursday, Aug. 29. In a statement, the Cass County, North Dakota, commissioner said the diversion is a major facet of almost every community’s long-range planning efforts in the region.

“We recognize the growth that the city of Horace has had in its community and we want to make sure we are helping foster its continued success,” Scherling said.

The Diversion Authority Board unanimously approved the partnership on Thursday, Aug. 22. It was unanimously approved by the city of Horace on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

Horace has a population of between 2,800-2,900, Peterson said. Located in Cass County, it is in need of water, sewer and road updates. The city is also constructing a middle school and high school.

“We can’t sock ‘em with special assessments for everything,” Peterson said. “This is a way to help.”

Since 2012, upstream communities along the Red River of the North in Richland County, North Dakota, and Wilkin County, Minnesota, have been in litigation against the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion.

“It seems like Horace gave up a lot for very little,” Richland County Commissioner Nathan Berseth said. “At the same time, I think Fargo has Horace where they want them or need them. As far as infrastructure needs, it doesn’t seem like Horace had much of a choice.”

The cost-share agreement could include assistance for the reorganization of water and wastewater services, the Diversion Authority stated. It also includes provisions for cooperation regarding the public-private partnership (P3) expected to construct and maintain a 30-mile diversion channel running adjacent to Horace.

Diversion opponents say $5 million is a paltry sum compared to the estimated $150 million spent in Oxbow, North Dakota, as well as the billions the diversion itself is expected to cost.

The Associated Press reported the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion will cost $2.8 billion. Attorney Cash Aaland, Fargo, said that according to Fargo City Commissioner Tony Gehrig, the present cost is actually $3.1 billion. Gehrig’s figure is a low estimate, Aaland continued, and doesn’t include the millions expected to be spent each year in maintenance.

All parties sat down and listened to each other’s needs and concerns, Peterson said. Prior to the agreement, the city of Horace sent a letter to the city of Fargo requesting water and wastewater service.

Horace is expected to leverage the money it receives from Fargo to receive additional state and federal funding for its infrastructure work. Peterson reiterated that local projects affected by the agreement are not in the immediate or even near future.

Peterson also confirmed Horace was considering intervening in litigation against the Diversion Authority. Opposition and support to the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion has been an emotional topic for some time.

“We’re trying as a city to protect our citizens,” Peterson said. “Not everybody’s going to like it and think that we knuckled under. Considering we came late to the game, I’m glad we were able to talk this out. It took a long time, but we talked it through.”

Peterson said he’s hopeful other diversion players can reach a mutually agreeable situation. Activity in recent weeks and months indicates a solution won’t be soon:

• the Moorhead-Clay County Joint Powers Authority, with members from the Minnesota city and county, was established earlier in August; it was created to confirm both entities’ support and involvement in implementing the diversion

• the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers authority applied in July to intervene in a case involving the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District and the Diversion Authority; the authority is appealing Buffalo-Red River’s decision to deny a diversion permit

• upstream and downstream parties are disagreeing over whether or not the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources granted a full permit for Plan B on the diversion in December 2018

The Minnesota department placed 54 conditions on the Diversion Authority. Permits from local entities are required for the diversion, the December decision stated.

Richland County and Wilkin County are following the progress of the Buffalo-Red River case, Berseth said. Aaland, who observed that Fargo leadership seem willing to outspend any opposition, is also keeping his eyes peeled.

“In my mind, the primary important for the F-M Diversion is about creating development for Fargo,” Aaland said. “It’s doing so by depriving Horace of their expansion room. Horace is giving up their territory just to enhance future development in Fargo.”


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In the Community
A little night music
Kroshus and Krew conclude park’s concert season

By his own estimate, Tilford Kroshus has been a pretty fortunate man.

Music makes him happy. So does being around people. He simply loves to entertain in any shape or form.

Kroshus and Krew headlined 2019’s last Music in the Park summer concert. Beginning at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, the four-member band entertained an audience at Chahinkapa Park, Wahpeton.

“We had such a good time,” Kroshus said. “I think there was about 125 people there.”

Audience members included Wahpeton Parks and Recreation Director Wayne Beyer. Music in the Park, as well as the Community Band of Wahpeton, Breckenridge and Surrounding Communities, has been a Twin Towns Area staple for more than 60 years.

“It’s terrific to have the opportunity for local musicians to play tunes and show off their abilities,” Beyer said.

Chahinakpa Park hosts 7:30 p.m. concerts every Wednesday from June-August. The performance season has grown to include the annual Music Out of the Park concert. The Community Band gives one performance per summer in the Wahpeton High School Auditorium.

Kroshus and Krew has been among the most frequent Music in the Park performers. In recent years, the band has played concerts in June, July and August, including the season opening and closing events.

While Kroshus sang and played keyboards and trombone, he was joined by guitarist Greg Goerdt, drummer Jimmy Joe Hoaby and violinist Shari Bosch.

The musicians had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, Kroshus said.

“Those kids can all play,” he continued. “It was a fun night. It’s nice to have kids you can play with, guys who have musical knowledge, who can alter and change along with you and not lose their way.”

Kroshus and Krew’s setlist included familiar favorites like “Margaritaville” and “Orange Blossom Special,” which included a solo from Bosch. Geordt took the lead on “Down on the Corner.”

“I made up a song about Ralph Erdrich. I call him my best buddy. He’s 94 and still standing upright. He was there with his wife,” Kroshus said.

Improvisation is common during a Kroshus and Krew concert. The songs might go a little longer than expected, but Kroshus said it is an example of a unique gift.

“It really is fun to have a crew that can back you up,” he added.

Music in the Park is made possible through local funding and a grant from the North Dakota Council on the Arts.

“When people of all ages are able to continue to play their instruments and provide great music, it’s a good thing for the public and all involved,” Beyer said.

Music in the Park has an audience spanning beyond the band shelter.

“We have families, people from the group home, friends and spouses,” Beyer said. “There’s the pickleball players and park users who hear the music. We’re entertaining a lot more than just the people who are gathered.”

Kroshus’ life in music includes the 30 years he spent teaching at North Dakota State College of Science.

“I’ve been blessed to play with a lot of wonderful musicians,” he said.


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Unmanned aerial systems: ND continues to lead the way

North Dakota continues to lead the way in unmanned aviation advancements.The newly-renovated unmanned aerial systems training center at the Grand Forks Air Force Base was completed on Wednesday, Aug. 28. The center is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.

“It’s very positive for North Dakota and it has extenuated the growth of what we call Grand Sky up in Grand Forks,” said state Rep. Cindy Schreiber Beck, R-District 25. “Legislatively, the legislature has put considerable dollars in the last year for the eventual beyond line of sight flight for the unmanned systems.”

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., secured $8 million in fiscal year 2017 funding to ensure the CBP training program remained in the region. It nearly relocated due to growing operations on the base, but an adequate facility wasn’t available.

“The CBP operating out of Grand Forks is responsible for 900 miles of border, and considering our state’s leadership in UAS, it only makes sense to keep this training facility right here,” Hoeven said. “That’s why we worked to identify an appropriate location and secure the $8 million that was needed to renovate a building on base. Continuing this training program will help ensure our border agents are prepared to make the best use of unmanned technology, bolstering our nation’s security and helping maintain our state’s status as a leader in all things UAS.”

Successful unmanned aircraft systems flights were conducted in an urban environment by the North Dakota Department of Transportation and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. The purpose of the flights were to inspect Xcel Energy’s electric infrastructure in Grand Forks AirBus Aerial and SkySkopes operated the flights with assistance from Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Sites.

The flights were part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Integration Pilot Program and waivers allowed UAS operation beyond visual line of sight.

“These test flights are integral to improving UAS technology and best practices so that drones can be integrated into communities safely and without disruption,” said Trevor Woods, UAS Safety Director for the NPUASTS. “UAS flights have the potential to dramatically improve quality of life within a community, and these are the first steps.”

One of the bigger concerns currently is the occupied airspace. The current height limit for drones are 400 feet and it has to be in the line of sight.

“Obviously our aerial sprayers are in the same airspace because they’re under 400 feet when they’re spraying fields,” Schreiber Beck said. “For our hobbyists, that would be a very big concern that they’re aware of aerial sprayers and that sort of thing.”

Hobbyists are the main focus when considering the regulations because the commercial operators are mostly certified pilots.


News
4 Things to Know Today

1. Fly In: The 13th Annual Gathering of Airplanes Tribute to Gerry Beck runs 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 at Battle Lake Airport, Battle Lake, Minnesota. The public is invited to check out the vintage and modern aircraft, good food, great friends and lots of family fun.

2. Labor Day holiday: Schools and government offices will be closed Monday, Sept. 2 in observance of Labor Day. No mail will be delivered that day as it is a federal holiday.

3. Today in History: In 1983, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Guion S. Bluford became the first African American to travel into space. To learn about another African American achievement, turn to page A4.

4. Today’s Birthdays include “Frankenstein” author Mary Shelley (1797-1851); “My Three Sons” star Fred MacMurray (1908-1991); investor Warren Buffett (1930-); actress Cameron Diaz (1972-) and tennis champion Andy Roddick (1982-).


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Breckenridge Port Authority
Preliminary budget approved by board

The Breckenridge Port Authority Board expects to operate in the black next year with less expenses due to residential lot sales and a spec home sale among other factors. The proposed 2020 budget, showing $12,970 in revenue over expenditures, was approved Wednesday, Aug. 30.

Total proposed revenues are expected to be at $69,720 and includes $21,150 in general administration costs, $19,200 for industrial mall expenses, $2,450 Heritage Estates expenses, $5,600 for expenses at Heritage Park South and $8,350 for expense at Gewalt Park Addition.

Total expenses are expected to be at $56,750.

In other news, board members discussed the priority of purchasing land for future development opportunities and a sub-committee was formed to explore such, as well as creating a development plan. Members of that sub-committee will be Scott Nicholson, Janel Fredericksen, Dennis Larson and Mayor Russ Wilson.

A request to change zoning for a particular lot in Heritage Estates was reviewed and denied. The area will remain zoned as residential.

Border city tax credits were reviewed and approved. The state of Minnesota has allocated $47,019.39 in tax credits for 2019 for the city, one of five border cities which qualifies for the credits.

Allocations approved for this year are $6,000 to Diversion Properties, LLC, $6,000 to Luken’s Food Stores, Inc., $3,000 to Drifter Chic Boutique and $10,000 to Birchwood Counseling Services. The funds are not available to be used until July 1, 2020, according to information from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The board also reviewed and approved the July financials. Cash/investment balance available is $266,264.21 as of June 30. The Minnesota Investment Fund balance report for July was also reviewed, showing a cash/investment balance of $830,497.52.

The sheriff’s sale on the Stop ’n’ Go foreclosure was completed July 31. The mortgagor has 60 days from the date of the sale to redeem the property, which means if the mortgagor can pay off the mortgage within 60 days, he will get the property back. After the mortgagor’s redemption period, the junior lien holder has seven days to redeem their interest in the property. The city expects to get the property in mid-October.

City Administrator Renae Smith gave an update on the application for tax incentives by Paul Mergens, who is building multi-family housing project consisting of two separate twin homes with two units each at 103 Gewalt Drive and 107 Gewalt Drive in Breckenridge.

A hearing will be held at Tuesday’s city council meeting. A competitor of the developer or any other interested person or governmental unit may provide written comments to the city before the meeting date.

The tax exemption is for 15 years starting in 2019 and ending in 2033. The property would have a 100 percent exemption in years 1-12, 75 percent in year 13, 50 percent in year 14 and 25 percent in year 15. The total sales tax credit is not to exceed $2,000 per unit.

The next Port Authority meeting will be at 4 p.m. Sept. 11.