Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
February 7th, 2013
Wahpeton Daily News
Republished with permission from: Cash Aaland, board member Mndak Upstream Coalition
My introduction to Fargo’s plan to construct a dam and diversion included a map showing impacts for the Richland County area south of the dam. I still have the map. It projects no impacts along the Wild Rice River in northern Richland County. The county boundary is Highway 46.
The maps showed significant flooding, with water several feet deep on the north side of the highway, the Cass County side. But somehow the impacts quit at Highway 46. Coincidentally, the area Fargo’s Diversion Authority decided to compensate for the impacts, Cass County land, also ends at Highway 46.
I and a couple dozen families live near the Wild Rice River in the area just south of Highway 46. My house was safe in ‘97 and ‘09 – I didn’t even sandbag. The same was true for my neighbors.
A mile east of my farmstead is higher ground. For some reason Fargo decided to compensate those landowners. A mile or so further east is the Red River. The farms and homes along the Red River are at lower elevation then my home. Fargo rightfully decided that impacts along the Red should also be compensated. I am happy that my neighbors have some reassurance, but I see no reason why the homes and farms around the Wild Rice River were excluded, other then to save Fargo the costs. The U.S. Army Corps said that impacts outside the areas Fargo decided to compensate, designated as the “staging area,” will be evaluated on a “taking” basis. This is just code for “we’re not going to pay for any impacts until/unless you sue us and prove we caused it.” The Corps has since amended their maps and now shows the area south of Highway 46 flooded by the “staging” caused by Fargo’s dam. But my neighbors and I are still not included within the “red line,” the area that will be compensated.
I don’t know if the Army Corps’ failure to show impacts south of Highway 46 was an error similar to their failure to predict the extent of the downstream impacts, or an intentional act to try to minimize bad publicity.
I do know that the core opposition to the Fargo’s dam/diversion plan was born from this mistake. The chair, vice-chairs and more than half of the initial directors and organizers of the Mndak Upstream Coalition were from this area along the Wild Rice, just south of Highway 46. If Fargo’s plans to dam the Wild Rice and Red rivers fail, it will, to a large extent, be attributable to the organization efforts of these property owners. The same people Fargo promised to flood, but also promised not to compensate.
I wonder if it might all have happened differently had Fargo thought to include the leaders of Richland and Wilkin counties before devising its plan to flood their constituents. Fargo leaders still refuse to acknowledge the voice of the Richland and Wilkin County Commissioners in decisions affecting the fate of their residents. Fargo leaders clearly believe this is the big city way.
My neighbors and I know this is not the North Dakota way.