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FM Diversion and Dam Increases national debt

Defending Richland and Wilkin counties December 12th, 2012

Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
December 12th, 2012
Wahpeton Daily News

Republished with permission from:
Author: Lyle Hovland, Wilkin County Commissioner and Director, Richland Wilkin JPA

Sometimes silence is deafening. In this case the silence is coming from the State of Minnesota, and its support, or rather the lack of it, for the proposed Fargo Diversion/Dam project. The project has little benefit for the ‘hoped for’ partner to the east. In fact, the dam and reservoir component causes harm to farmers and residents of southern Clay and northern Wilkin counties.

The current plan is an opportunity missed. The Corps of Engineers has rejected any use of distributed retention as part of the project and instead has mandated its own dam and reservoir. Minnesota has traditionally opposed main stem dams, instead funding small retention areas that preserve wildlife habitat, while giving flood relief to everyone living next to streams and rivers. Pictures of the land south of Fargo in the 2009 flood shows vast amounts of water pooled in natural storage areas. This area near where the Wild Rice meets the Red is to be encircled by the diversion, forcing the water to cover normally dry land further south and east. It will make Minnesota’s spring flooding worse, not better. Minnesota has invested $95 million to protect Moorhead, and it’s unreasonable to expect that Minnesota would invest more money to negatively impact its citizens or allow such a plan to go forward.

The Diversion Authority (DA) recently voted to fund a study of possible retention sites in the Red River Watershed. The Red River Basin Commission completed a study of the area about a year ago, citing an opportunity to reduce river flow by 20%. The RRBC will use the DA’s funding to refine their previous work. We’re hopeful the study will include all possible retention sites, including the natural floodplain just south of Fargo that was important in protecting the city in previous floods, but city leaders now want to develop.

The best solution for Minnesota is to utilize basin wide storage throughout the watershed and avoid a project that includes a dam and reservoir. Retention that reduces the flood risk to Minnesota is a wise investment.   A diversion plan that takes less land from the natural floodplain should be a prerequisite. If a resolution to this situation is to be achieved, all retention areas and natural flood plains need to be   evaluated both upstream and downstream.   The flood risk reduction to the basin with sensible retention on both sides of the river can, and should be achieved.

The Diversion Authority has asked for $200 million from the State of Minnesota. So far, there is no answer. Or maybe there is.

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