FARGO (AP) - The first home buyouts to make way for the proposed $2 billion Red River diversion project at Fargo could happen in the next few months.
A committee on Monday recommended three homes in Oxbow for early buyouts due to medical hardships. The recommendation still must gain the approval of two more groups that meet Thursday but officials are confident the buyouts will move forward, marking the first mitigation for homeowners affected by the 36-mile diversion of the river around Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn. The area battled major flooding for three straight years, starting with a record flood in 2009.
Residents south of Fargo cannot sell their homes because the impending diversion has repelled potential buyers and made the area's property values uncertain. The project's proposed temporary water storage area south of the flood-control channel could eventually displace residents of Oxbow, Hickson and the Bakke subdivision.
"It's really encouraging to see this type of meeting take place so these people have relief to look to," Brian Berg, administrator of Minnesota's Clay County and chairman of the Hardship Review Committee, told The Forum newspaper (http://bit.ly/LroHil ).
Dorothy and George Scilley were the first residents to apply for the hardship program and likely will be the first property owners bought out for the diversion. George Scilley, a 78-year-old retired Army chaplain, deals with a variety of health problems including the effects of exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. The couple wants to move into a home closer to medical facilities in Fargo.
"We have to get out of this place, and we feel assured that we will," Dorothy Scilley told The Forum.
The White House has signed off on the diversion designed by the Army Corps of Engineers but it still needs approval form Congress. Funding for the buyouts has not yet been determined.