FARGO (AP) - The Red River Diversion Authority is asking a federal judge to allow the group to intervene in a lawsuit filed by opponents of the planned project to divert the river around Fargo, N.D., and neighboring Moorhead, Minn.
Opponents last month sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, saying the nearly $2 billion flood protection project is vastly overpriced and will damage farmland.
Diversion Authority Chairman Darrell Vanyo told The Forum newspaper that intervening in the lawsuit would allow diversion leaders "a seat at the table" to help the corps' legal team.
"We don't know the type of defense the corps would have," he said. "We run a risk: Would we or would we not be satisfied with their efforts? This way, we're working in sync with them."
Authority member Nancy Otto said "we have a lot at stake here" and that it is important the local group be involved "in the legal realm."
Nathan Berseth, a spokesman for the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority, which filed the lawsuit, said the Diversion Authority's attempt to get involved in the case shows that "they're taking this lawsuit very seriously."
The opposition group has said it is not trying to stop the project but wants the corps to come up with a cheaper plan that doesn't flood farmland in Richland County in North Dakota and neighboring Wilkin County in Minnesota.
Vanyo said he expects U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle to rule on the authority's motion sometime next month.
The Fargo-Moorhead area saw three straight years of major flooding, beginning with a record crest in 2009, and sandbagging along the river has become a rite of spring in the area.
The U.S. Senate authorized the diversion project earlier this year but has not approved any money for construction. The U.S. House has not yet authorized it.