Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
July 17th, 2014
Wahpeton Daily News
Republished with permission from:
JPA Editorial Team
This isn’t the first time the U.S. Army Corps has teamed up with a local interest to take property without paying for it.
The Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority, along with the Corps, say they don’t have to pay farmers and homeowners outside the one-foot water depth line created by their dam and reservoir. They like to say the dam will only flood 32,000 acres – over a foot deep. Their maps show the total affected area to be more than 50,000 acres. The game is apparently to force property holders to sue them for damages every time they close the floodgates. That would cost them a lot less money, but the law says differently.
The Corps built the Clearwater Dam in Arkansas back in 1948, but in the 1990s they decided to hold a little more water on a lot more land than they’d paid for. It turns out it was a wildlife and forest management area that covered about 23,000 acres. The Corps said they didn’t have to pay anything because it was temporary. The Arkansas Fish and Game Commission sued them. The court ruled in December of 2012 that the Corps was wrong. The Federal Court of Appeals said a temporary government action is “a taking” if permanent action of the same character would constitute “a taking.” It said government-induced flooding is a taking if the flooding is “permanent or inevitably recurring.”
It sounds like the Fargo diversion plan, doesn’t it?
A few months ago, the Diversion Authority hired a consultant to advise them on a crop insurance scheme for the farmland they want to inundate, as current crop insurance will not cover damage created by a man-made structure. The Montana-based consultant told them they were responsible for damages to the entire 50,000 acres they’re going to flood. It doesn’t appear that the consultant is still in their employment. If you can’t shoot the messenger, just fire them.
Ethics are at the heart of major decisions in our society. The Diversion Authority is fond of citing their promises for compensating the people they are damaging, yet their proposals are hollow and ineffective, or just plain non-existent. As to people flooded outside the designated staging area, the Corps says whether they get compensated will be determined on “a taking analysis.” When asked what that means, the U.S. Army Corps cited “attorney/client privilege” and refused to explain.
Someone should tell the Diversion Authority and Army Corps this isn’t a game of hide the ball. The people they are damaging are real, with homes and businesses and families.
It’s unfair and unethical to force family farmers, homeowners and communities to pursue their own costly legal recourse to Fargo’s development project. But then again, maybe we’re expecting too much of our neighbors and elected leaders.