Building effective partnerships on large-scale, complex public infrastructure projects that involve various stakeholders, span several years, and have major impacts on communities is often as daunting as the scale of the project itself. With collaboration across more than 50 organizations, including contractors, consultants, utilities, and federal, state, and local agencies, the $3.2-billion Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Project in Fargo, North Dakota is no exception.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working in partnership with the cities of Fargo, N.D. and Moorhead, Minn. and the Metro Flood Diversion Authority (MFDA) to build this project which, when completed, will provide flood risk management for nearly 260,000 people and 70 square miles of infrastructure in the communities of Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo, Horace, and Harwood. The Stormwater Diversion Channel and Associated Infrastructure portion of the project is being developed by the Red River Valley Alliance, a consortium of three acclaimed international companies, through a public-private partnership, or P3. This agreement was entered into with the MFDA, which oversees the FM Area Diversion’s construction, in accordance with its requirements and operating standards.
Being constructed to divert storm water from the Red River of the North away from nearby residential areas which are regularly affected by flooding, the FM Area Diversion includes four project components to manage uncontrolled stormwater that threatens the metropolitan area. The stormwater diversion channel component includes the construction of a 30-mile channel to redirect surplus stormwater flowing safely north around the metropolitan area, along with drainage inlets, railroad crossings, interstate crossings, county road crossings and two aqueducts. This project has been structured as a P3 project with a concession term of construction period plus 30 years.
Another component is the Southern Embankment which includes a 20-mile earthen embankment and three gated control structures along with an interstate crossing and road grade raise as well as county and township road crossings. Mitigation projects and in-town features round out the project. The Southern Embankment is being delivered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mitigation projects are being delivered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and MFDA in partnership with city and county governments. In-town features are being delivered by city and county governments.
The project team broke ground on the diversion channel in 2022, and the entire undertaking is scheduled to begin operation in spring of 2027.
To help form a cohesive partnership among the various project team members, third party stakeholders and the public, Construction Partnering was implemented in 2021. Velo Group Partnering Facilitator Eileen Sien is facilitating the formal Partnering program, which began with separate executive and full team kick-off sessions in December 2021. During these sessions, the team set and evaluated common goals for safety, schedule, budget, communication, quality and teamwork. They also discussed time and money saving ideas, as well as processes to accomplish the project efficiently.
Each subsequent year, the team returns for an annual Partnering Review to evaluate and adjust the goals, implement further Partnering protocols, discuss issues, and address other pertinent topics. The first annual review was held in December 2022 and the second is planned for October 2023. As a timely and inclusive approach prior to these meetings, partnering surveys are completed to identify topics of importance and examples of positive Partnering experienced by the various team members.
“From the onset of the Partnering process, the entire team has emphasized the importance of strong, open communication to drive success on their goals,” said Sien. “Through their collaboration, they are able to resolve issues and build on the momentum of the project’s progress while also focusing on the Fargo-Moorhead community.”
In addition to formal Partnering, the project is utilizing a public private partnership (P3) delivery. The Fargo-Moorhead Diversion project is the first P3 flood management project in North America and is also the first-ever public-private civil works project involving the USACE. This delivery approach is anticipated to save $330 million in construction costs and shorten the schedule by about 10 years compared to a traditional design-bid-build project. Best P3 model practices from this project are already being replicated to improve the delivery of other Federal mega-projects across the country.