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Defending Richland and Wilkin counties April 24th, 2014

Fargo's Straw Man Argument

Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
April 24th, 2014

Wahpeton Daily News
Republished with permission from:
Lyle Hovland, Wilkin County Commissioner and Richland-Wilkin JPA vice chair

The April 14 Fargo Forum had not one, but two articles on the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion. The Diversion Authority’s public relations machine has resorted to the classic “straw man fallacy.” It’s a tactic where you misrepresent another’s actual position by substituting a distorted, or exaggerated version of that position.

Since they will not debate or even discuss the real reason for the project, they phony up the straw man fallacy to shoot down an attempt to discredit those who don’t agree with them. They declare the opposition to their project believes the single solution for Fargo’s problem is distributed retention. Neither the opposition, the Red River Basin Commission nor the Red River Retention Authority promote distributed retention as a single solution.

Distributed basin-wide retention’s basic premise is to hold water where it falls, which reduces the flow downstream. It can be easily supplemented with other flood risk reduction measures, such as dikes and levees.

The most reasonable solution to the valley’s water problems is a collection of flood reduction measures, not just distributed retention, but the U.S. Army Corps didn’t consider a combination of measures to resolve Fargo’s flood risk. The Corps, under the guidance of the F-M Diversion Authority, decided to only consider a staging area far enough south of Fargo so as not to interfere with their future growth. They see this as the only solution to the problem.

If Fargo were serious about protecting their city, and not carving out the floodplain for future development, they would place the diversion north of the Wild Rice River near Davies High School. That location would encircle a much smaller area, making it less likely to flood internally from heavy rainfall events or rapid snowmelt. More of the natural floodplain would be preserved south of town, with lower water levels during spring flooding, reducing the chance of a catastrophic dike breach that would be a serious threat to human life.

The Corps’ document states the more land removed from the flood plain, the better the plan is. Better for Fargo maybe, but nobody else. Fargo city officials have expressed a concern that without this project the growth will go to West Fargo.

Interestingly, they express no concern of growth going to Moorhead, Minn., where the Corps documents say growth should go, due to the higher elevation. It’s also important to note that Moorhead has nearly completed their in-town protection measures and have minimal flood risk.

The straw man fallacy is the argument promoted by the Diversion Authority, that the Richland-Wilkin JPA advocate the single solution of distributed retention. It simply isn’t true and it shows their desperation in promoting a plan that is overpriced and morally wrong.

So why would the Diversion Authority and their public relations representatives resort to such desperate tactics?

The answer is simple: To distract from the real purpose of their plan, which is the development of the floodplain and the expansion of Fargo at the expense of their neighbors.

This explains why the 13-mile-long levee just happens to locate most of the water on the Kindred School District, while Fargo gets the future development.

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