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FM Diversion and Dam Increases national debt

5 Years Ago Today, Keeping Fear Alive

Pro-Diversion Ilk

Five years ago on March 28, the Fargo-Moorhead area experienced the net effects of irresponsible flood plain encroachment and chose to point fingers at everything but the truth. Not one photo or video chronicling the flood shows the cities mere inches from flood waters washing over permanent or emergency protections.

The senseless appeals to water pressing against dikes and levees that could become saturated and break at any time, used as justification for the Fargo Dam and FM Diversion, garners eye-rolling from the residents of Oxbow, Bakke and Hickson who are being forced to live behind the same. The proposed project, if built, would surround the upstream communities with a man-made lake more than two times greater than Lake Ashtabula behind the Bald Hill Dam near Valley City, ND and no guarantee of when waters would be allowed to subside.

Fear is a powerful motivator. It captivates the senses and overwhelms us with emotions, to the point of irrational thought, It cements bias’ and phobias as though they were etched into our brains with adrenaline induced anticipation.

The Fargo Forum’s latest ploy to release three articles relating to the 2009 flood prior midnight March 27th, is a cheesy attempt to stir up fears to focus readers eyes on the prize that Fargo wants, which is a $2+ billion dollar dam and diversion – development plan under the auspices of flood protection for the est 108,000 that do not currently have permanent flood protection in Fargo.

Who’s fault is that? Look at Fargo/Cass leaders for conspiring to develop the last natural flood plain in lieu focusing efforts and completing internal protections to protect the city that already exists.

The region doesn’t need another “woe is me” tale tale from Mayor Dennis Walaker, Deputy Tim Mahoney and his bright colored vest. We need even less words from Diversion Chair Darrell Vanyo or Cass County Administrator Keith Berndt because they are distantly rooted in truth of the problems at hand.

The often touted “we’ve exceeded flood stage every year since 1993″ is more a result of flood plain encroachment than mother nature throwing a hissy fit. Not one study in the whole process of the current proposal quantified and disseminated the net effect of flood plain encroachment. Only the pervasive message of a “wet cycle” and an almost zealot religion built around CFS modeling with little to no rational basis in science in proving how those purported flows would ever come to exist.

So the latest bid by the Forum, an entity controlling “their” political message via 36 print publications, prompts a mention at what else happened in 1993 that coincided with the exceedence of Fargo’s artificially low “minimum” flood stage.

Flood waters need room to breath or they rise rapidly. If you reduce the flood plain the river crests higher and every flood plain on the planet reacts in the same manner. Ironically, ’round 1993 – areas in and around Rose Creek coulee began developing the once natural flood plain and that growth continued to accelerate. That burgeoning growth created exposure to what the Red River flood plain naturally does…, which is to “flood”. Up went emergency measures, dikes and levees to protect the new developments and the public outcry was “protect us”. Oddly enough, in an attempt to protect the city from rising flood waters, the flood efforts only forced the Red River gage higher and higher to its present state, wherein, FEMA remapping placed scores of homes, once above the 100 year flood plain, into risk zones which Fargo uses with impunity to justify the proposed dam and diversion.

Why not make the “bad guys” FEMA along with mother nature. It certainly directs people away from the truly guilty parties.

Had Fargo and Cass county adopted a zero impact policy on development in the natural flood plain, events like the flood of 2009 would have been closer to 1969 – because there wasn’t more extreme amounts of water, there was just less flood plain area for it to run free. Reduction of the natural flood plain and restrictions on the river channel increased the 2009 flood by over 25 inches.

Sadly, since 1969 Fargo and Cass county have done nothing to offset the effects of water being displaced from the natural flood plain. So it does beg the question how encroachment into the flood plain can be considered progress when the net effect is an increase in flood threat to the metro area. Is exerting water onto neighboring Moorhead and West Fargo a neighborly thing to do?

Fargo and the Diversion Authority salivate for headlines that can be used to enhance fears of flooding. That fear gives them control. 5 headlines between October 14th – 18th, 2013 related to the effects of rain and inferences to spring 2014 flooding. Yet, only one day, Oct 18th, exceeded minimum flood stage by one quarter of an inch (22.82 feet below 2009).

Well here we are, the likely-hood of a 2014 spring flood has most likely meandered its way toward Canada. Which marks year 2 of 5 that didn’t reach minimum flood stage and year 3 that would not have threatened homes in the metro area. 16 of the last 17 years would have been lower than 1997 had Fargo/Cass placed zero impact restrictions on the natural flood plain – or at the bare minimum offset the displacement that was occurring.

No blaring sirens or police escorts for sandbags. No daily news appeals for sand-baggers. No need to cry wolf…

So despite all the grand standing done by the pro-diversion ilk there are three lessons to be learned.

#1) Don’t build where the water wants to be or you will flood.
#2) Don’t lose your wits because you disregarded #1.
#3) Demand Fargo/Cass pay your flood insurance for allowing flood plain encroachment.

..and if the pro-diversion ilk don’t like the message…

Go Pound Sand!

(edited for spelling)

6 Responses to “ 5 Years Ago Today, Keeping Fear Alive ”

  1. I was listening to the Mike McFiely radio show.

    He was blasting the Moorhead city council person that does not support the diversion. His perspective is that if/when Fargo goes under during the “big” flood that Moorhead will suffer.

    I think he needs more information for his talk show. We need healthy discussion, and not just heated opinion. I would like to hear some hard facts from him since he has air time and can influence the public.

  2. Good luck with that. No matter what subject it is he’s always right. There is no such thing as a healthy discussion on his show if you disagree with him.

  3. The article in the forum doesn’t mention it, but at the time (2009), the event was recorded as a 129 year event. A study was developed by the local authorities which showed the benefit of a diversion to be around 1.0. Projects need a better ratio to be a priority.

    An “EOE” study was commenced, and a new flood threat was determined by dropping nearly 100 years of historical data, and that resulted in a diversion cost benefit ratio which makes funding more likely, and a new flood rating for 2009, a 50 year rating.

    Ironically, this is drawing focus and money away from the RRBC’s implementations of projects like north Ottawa, an already completed upstream storage.

    These upstream proposals benefit the entire valley all the way to Winnipeg and beyond.

    Doubly ironic is that these improvements are in progress, while the Diversion groups work on the ND problem languishes. Not even the 18 foot major flood stage dike area is completed 5 years later, while the RRBC work continues slow and steady and there is funding and authorization for it already.

    Compare this with the DA plan, whose funding is noT guaranteed, and whose authorization languished in conference committee between the house and senate.

    Even if both authorization and funding do occur, there is no guarantee that the project will be completed on budget. Rather most corp projects cost at least double. Take the Rousseau diversion which ran out of budget at about half completed and congress refuses to add more $$ to complete it.

    Fargo and Cass should get behind what ever plan will actually be built and improve the situation. Clearly that is the plan that is showing results now.

    Combining the upstream storage which is already in progress with a reduced size diversion without the dam would provide a much better cost benefit ratio and likelihood to be completed and funded–and provides benefit even in the event of partial completion if the Rousseau pattern is repeated. (Note: Only about a third of the identified RRBC sites need be completed to offset down stream impacts.)

    This approach works to offset all effects of the diversion on down and upstream residents who won’t benefit from the current plan but would pay for it anyway.

  4. Excellent summary Ray. You propose a workable rational solution; cost effective and benefial to the entire RR basin. The response from diversion proponents and their pet radio commentator will likely be something along the lines of: “Are you now or have you ever been against flood protection for Fargo?”

  5. Another prime example of Diversions that are part done and stopped, is the Garrison Diversion.

    Those large scale digs that are “a single moving part”, actually are much higher risk to assume completion and a bunch of incremental independent parts that can work together.

    Upstream storage works, can be done piece by piece, and if on piece is blocked, another part can take over.

    Ever hear of “all your eggs in on basket”???

  6. Another prime example of Diversions that are part done and stopped, is the Garrison Diversion. These all or nothing solutions are very high risk.

    Those large scale digs that are “a single moving part”, actually are much higher risk to assume completion; and provide no benefit until the whole thing is complete.

    Consider instead a bunch of incremental independent parts that can work together–the RRBC plan for example.

    Upstream storage works, can be done piece by piece, and if on piece is blocked, another part can take over; and as each piece is completed benefit is added and risk is reduced, immediately.

    Ever hear of “all your eggs in on basket”???

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