Original Publication Date: June 21st, 2012
Republished with persmission from: Wahpeton Daily News
Bags ‘O Money – that’s what it takes to build a $2 billion diversion. The question is, who will pay? After successful prodding by the Fargo Mayor, voters approved an extension of a half-cent sales tax in Fargo. That means Fargo residents will only have to pay 60 percent of additional financing for the dam and ditch.
We kind, out-of-town folks, who drop their coins in the business tills of the city, pay the other 40 percent. But that will not be enough money. The diversion finance committee is now saying – after the election – they need the Water Resource District to levy special assessments. Good timing.
The Upstream Resistance predicted last fall that special assessments will have to be steep to cover the cost. If the project is to be paid off in the 20-year length of the original sales tax measures, everyone on the North Dakota side within the diversion, may have to pay more than 100 mills to get protection. That includes West Fargo and Horace. Remember that those two communities, as well as a large part of southwest Fargo, are protected to the 100-year flood level by the Sheyenne Diversion, and 100 years is all anyone gets from the Fargo plan.
They need more money. At a recent diversion meeting, it was discussed that this project should be financed for a longer period. More generations should have the opportunity to pay for it. Extend payments to 40 or maybe 60 years. “Borrow it Forward,” that’s how the federal government does it.
Fargo asked the North Dakota Congressional delegation to get $30 million allocated in President Obama’s budget for continued work by the U.S. Army Corps. They got $5 million and the Corps said they could live with that. But wait, Fargo has decided to “accelerate” $17 million in payments to the project, to make up for the lack of federal funding. At a recent North Dakota Legislative hearing in Fargo, diversion financial representatives raised the possibility that the federal government may not be able to come up with its $844 million share of the $2 billion project.
So who exactly will pay the Bags ‘O Money for this behemoth? You will. The State of North Dakota is the only source of funds that can bail out Fargo. Project planners originally asked for $300 million. The legislature has allocated $75 million. The likely request will be more than $500 million, or the project will not be built as planned. Minnesota has protected their side of the river with levees above the 100 -year level. It’s unlikely they’ll kick in anything. Representatives of the Richland Wilkin Joint Powers Authority asked a North Dakota Legislative Interim Committee to place conditions on any money allocated to the diversion project to remove the dam and reservoir.
Residents of Richland and southern Cass Counties, shouldn’t have to pay for their own demise.Remember, all this money is for the ‘estimated’ cost. Corps projects in this neck of the woods don’t have a history of making budget. It’s not just Bags ‘O Money, it’s going to be Bags ‘O Bags ‘O Money.