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FM Diversion and Dam Increases national debt

101.9 FM Tom Becka: Craig Hertsgaard and Stephanie Miranowski Interview August 29th, 2012

Talk FM 101.9 Tom Becka interviews Craig Hertsgaard and Stephanie Miranowski on August 29th, 2012 regarding the Fargo Moorhead Dam and FM Diversion project.

Hertsgaard is a committee member of the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) and Min-Dak Upstream Coalition and Miranowski is a Wilkin County Commissioner and JPA board member.

Listen to the Tom Becka Show weekday mornings from 5:30 – 9:00 a.m. CST on 101.9 Talk FM and 1019talkfm.com for the latest news and information.

Tom Becka interviews Craig Hertsgaard and Stephanie Miranowski of the Richland Wilkin JPA

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101.9 FM Tom Becka interviews Craig Hertsgaard and Stephanie Miranowski

 

Interview Transcript:

Tom Becka:

I’m talking with Stephanie Miranowski she’s the Wilkin county commissioner and also Craig Hertsgaard who is a farmer and your part of the Joint Powers Authority and Steph we were talking about the area…, Craig and I were, about the JPA – Joint Powers Authority. This is not some fly by night group is this? This is a pretty massive coalition of different entities that are opposed to this diversion plan…right?

Stephanie Miranowski:

Well they’re not…I want to correct you there Tom…, we are NOT opposed to the diversion plan. What we’re opposed to is the dam that’s a part of this plan. So I want to make it perfectly clear that we are not opposed to a diversion for Fargo Moorhead.

Also, yes, you are right when you talk about the Joint Powers Authority…, we have several entities coming on board and there’s more that are willing to join. We have over 30 members already, and they are willing to contribute money and to become a part of this because they are as concerned as we are.

Tom Becka:

Now okay…, you talk about the dam that which would then build a reservoir and you also talked earlier about all the tax money that would be lost from losing this property…, but at the same time if you’re building lake side property around there isn’t that actually increase the property value?

If there was a big enough reservoir there that would bring people and their boats and their recreational dollars to this part of the state instead of going across the state lines into Minnesota…, wouldn’t that be a good thing?

Craig Hertsgaard:

The reservoir goes away…, y’know once the river goes down. They drain the water and hopefully be able to farm that land. That’s what their proposal is.

What we are suggesting is that the dam isn’t necessary at all. Because what that does…, is it turns that area into a spot that no one can ever build a building. The houses and building there are gone, the communities are gone…, and we think there’s a better option to do that. Y’now so that, from an economic standpoint what we’re talking about losing is property tax valuation for the school district in particular…, because it’s devastating to lose 25 percent of your property tax valuation for the district…, because everyone else in the district has to pick up the valuation then and our taxes go up and it actually reduces the economic activity in that area because this isn’t a reservoir that would carry boats…, it carries eight feet of water when the flood is happening and that’s why the communities are going to be lost. But in turns of a permanent structure the idea is that it would be farmed again from their point of view.

Tom Becka:

You say the communities would be lost…, and maybe this is a naive question but wouldn’t the communities just move a few miles down the road?

Craig Hertsgaard:

Well…y’now, those areas live in a unique area geopraphically. They may…, one spouse may work in Fargo and one spouse may work in Wahpeton. People may choose to live in those areas close to Fargo because commuting is relatively inexpensive because they aren’t going really far – fifteen minutes to work. And at the same time they can live in a small town atmosphere. A lot of these people are from rural North Dakota and rural Minnesota.

Craig Hertsgaard:

Sure.

Craig Hertsgaard:

They want their kids to go to Kindred, they want them to go to Wahpeton, they want them to go to Colfax to school. So those are the issues of disrupting the communities and the cemeteries that would be covered and the churches that will be lost.

Y’know, these are significant cultural issues for us…, so that’s why we are addressing that. And also, the financial issue of a $2 billion dollar project being constructed in the valley, y’know, where is that money going to come from? And is it going to be $2 billion dollars by the time it’s built?

If it gets authorized…, and right now that appears to be several years down the road, there’s over 1,000 projects that are authorized by congress, that includes study and actual construction projects like this…, that have never been funded and sit on the shelf…, and the cost increases every year that it’s not built.

Tom Becka:

…but then so does the cost of the potential damage id we get that flood.

Craig Hertsgaard:

…right, right…

Tom Becka:

…or when we get that flood. It’s not a matter of if…, but when we get that flood.

Craig Hertsgaard:

Right! …and that heightens the importance of choosing a project that CAN be built not one that we hope would be built…, but let’s choose one that CAN be built.

Tom Becka:

When you talk about these other suggestions that you have, as you say, you’re not opposed to a diversion, you’re just opposed to this dam and this diversion project.

When you talk to the people around the areas of the other diversion ideas that you’re looking at are they as opposed to their diversion plans as you are opposed to this one?

Craig Hertsgaard:

Y’now, we haven’t had a lot of discussions with other people around the country.

Tom Becka:

Cuz it would seem that if you had another group of people saying “…hey yeah, we’d be willing to sell our land through eminent domain, and we understand that we’ll take one for the team for the greater area…” if you had people willing to do that…, then that would definitely help move this forward, …right?

Craig Hertsgaard:

Well it would…if you have to say we’re going to trade my land for your land…, and that’s what we are saying we don’t think is necessary. We think we can do basin wide retention projects that are going to protect everybody that would probably…, be part of the project but what we want to do is minimize the footprint of this diversion and minimize the damage…, we’re not talking about shifting it to somebody else. We’re talking about minimizing the impacts not trading one for another…, y’now that’s an important point for what we’re talking about.

Tom Becka:

Alright…, Stephanie…, any last comments that you want to make about this?

Stephanie Miranowski:

Uh…no…, but I truly believe, one short comment. I truly believe that the people of Fargo Moorhead do not want any more damage to happen to the people south of them as they would want in their own homes. Y’now, we’re for basin wide protection. We want it to work for all of us and we want to minimize the damage for anyone. That’s what we want the Corps to be responsible about and look at…, so that’s our main concern.

Tom Becka:

Alright…, thank you very much Stephanie Miranowski and Craig Hertsgaard with the Joint Powers Authority. What’s the time frame on this? Your talking about lawsuits and everything…, is this imminent…, are we talking about…, y’now…six months or eight months down the line…, or how long is this all gonna drag out?

Craig Hertsgaard:

In terms of legal pursuit right now, they’re looking for information right now. They’re in the information gathering phase. And as we go from Fargo and the Diversion Authority having to make some decisions this fall, we’re also looking forward to the legislative session in North Dakota because of the $2 billion dollar problem of building the thing.

Tom Becka:

…right…

Craig Hertsgaard:

They’re going to need to look at the legislature for funding…, so we’re looking to legislature as well for a discussion of these issues out in Bismarck this winter.

Tom Becka:

So…, this’ll be going around for awhile?

Craig Hertsgaard:

It’ll be going around for awhile.

Tom Becka:

This is gonna be out there for awhile…,

Folks…, thank you very much for joining us today. Thank you very much for your time. I’ll get you on the program again sometime soon as this story keeps on developing.

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