FARGO – North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said he and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton have agreed that modifications to the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion could be enough to satisfy Minnesota regulators rather than starting over, Burgum’s office said Tuesday, Sept. 19.

“It was encouraging that Gov. Dayton and I agreed on the need to work together and try to find a path forward for this project, and that going back to square one would not be productive,” Burgum said in a news release. “As neighbors, we have a common interest in protecting lives and property from catastrophic flooding along our shared border, and long delays will only continue to put the public at risk.”

The two governors spoke Tuesday afternoon by phone after Dayton invited Burgum to discuss the diversion project with him. Sam Fettig, Dayton’s press secretary, described the conversation as cordial and constructive.

“They both expressed their shared desire for a collaborative process that will prioritize the safety and security of all the people living in the Fargo-Moorhead region,” Fettig said in a statement.

The $2.2 billion project includes a diversion channel and a high-hazard dam controlling the flow of flood water into it. Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources has refused to grant a permit for the dam and has joined upstream opponents of the project in a federal lawsuit. A federal judge has since halted the project until the suit is resolved.

DNR officials have alluded to a “Plan B” that they would like pursued in lieu of the project. Officials at the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority, the local sponsors of the diversion, have strongly opposed the idea of starting over after many years and tax dollars spent designing the project, as the DNR seems to imply.

At the same time, DNR officials had earlier agreed to have technical staff from both sides talk about modifications to the project that could satisfy the DNR. Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney and Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams, the authority’s chairman and vice chairwoman, have said they were close to a breakthrough when the DNR broke off contact in June, citing concerns about the lawsuit.

Burgum’s office suggested that something like that might be revived.

“The governors agreed to set up a call between their offices and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to discuss possible technical changes to the project that would address the DNR’s concerns enough to grant a permit,” Burgum’s office said in the release.

Fettig confirmed that such a call was arranged, saying the intention is “to discuss in more detail the Minnesota DNR’s objections to the present project proposal. However, Governor Dayton made it clear that he would not negotiate any changes until after he has met again with Moorhead City Officials, area Legislators, and landowners both north and south of the city. Those meetings are in the process of being scheduled.”

Burgum’s office said he emphasized during his Tuesday conversation with Dayton that Fargo-Moorhead “came within inches of flooding” in 1997 and 2009.