Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
April 10th, 2014
Wahpeton Daily News
Republished with permission from:
JPA Editorial Team
The fog surrounding decision making at the Diversion Authority lifted for a moment in a courtroom in Duluth, Minn., last week. Attorneys for the Diversion Authority were trying to convince a federal magistrate that most of the complaints of the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority should be thrown out, so they could go about their business of dam building and developing the floodplain.
The surprise of the day wasn’t that the parties agreed the JPA could pursue all their issues in federal court, it was that, according to the Diversion Authority’s attorney, the project components on the Minnesota side of the river weren’t subject to Minnesota laws.
Newspapers report that Diversion Authority Attorney Michael Drysdale told the judge, “When federal and state laws conflict, federal law prevails … if the state says ‘you can’t do this,’ the federal government can say ‘this is our project, and we’re going to do it.’”
A large portion of the JPA complaint is that when the U.S. Army Corps did their Environmental Impact Statement, they ignored the requirements of Minnesota law and they need to redo it. It makes sense then, that if the Diversion Authority believes what their attorney argued in court, they would think enforcement of any of the laws of Minnesota is ridiculous. It explains why they thumbed their nose when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources told them they shouldn’t be building project components like the Hickson/Oxbow/Bakke ring dike until their state analysis was completed. The Diversion Authority sees the $60 million plus they’ve spent hiring the Army Corps to supply the permits they need, as their ticket to inundating the valley with a self-serving project that ignores not only the rules of Minnesota, but the rest of the Red River Valley’s residents.
Now here’s the kicker. Seated next to the Diversion Authority’s attorney in the courtroom was an attorney representing the Army Corps, aka, the United States Government. In discussions with the judge, the Army Corps attorney stated that federal law overrules state law only if it is a navigation project. This isn’t that type of project. Which, of course, means it’s a flood control project and states have as much right to control flood control projects as the feds do.
So who’s in the fog? What exactly is the Diversion Authority basing their $2 billion decisions on? Their attorney’s arguments would suggest the Diversion Authority has never believed they would have to take the MN DNR environmental review seriously, or the state laws that govern water policy in Minnesota. The dam and tie-back levy they intend to build crosses far enough into Minnesota to flood more than 20,000 acres of farmland and require ring dikes around Comstock and Wolverton. Neither community currently has flooding issues, but they will if the Diversion Authority gets their way.
As for the results of the hearing, newspaper reports say, “The parties agreed to work on an amended complaint … but not have any substantial effect on the substance of the claims (by the JPA).”