Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
March 27th, 2014
Wahpeton Daily News
Republished with permission from:
JPA Editorial Team
A long time ago, when we were members of a local farm cooperative board, our manager pointed out that since he controlled the information, he could “Snow the board whenever he wanted.”
Our wise board chairman pointed out, “That may be true, but snow melts.” Springtime came early that year and the manager’s employment was measured in weeks.
Last week, the Fargo Diversion Authority’s Ag Subcommittee heard a presentation by Alex Offerdahl of Watts and Associates. They specialize in crop insurance and have experience with compensation to landowners for federal projects. One of the main points of discussion was who must be paid when the water from the dam floods the people upstream.
The Diversion Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have made a living telling the North Dakota Legislature, governor’s office, federal delegation, local media and anyone who will listen, that they are only affecting 32,000 acres of land where the water will be more than a foot deep. Their own maps show coverage of more than 50,000 acres, but they say anything under less than a foot of water doesn’t count, despite the fact that submerged farmland and septic drain fields are equally doomed under an inch of water as they are under six feet.
Offerdahl told the group that landowners must be compensated if they are affected at any depth. Attorneys have told us since the beginning, that if you are damaged by a federal project, you must be compensated fully. Yet the Army Corps has based their benefit/cost ratio on much less than the total cost of the project. The Diversion Authority vehemently denies responsibility to anyone outside the one foot depth “red box” on their maps. Offerdahl’s assessment means the actual damaged area will increase by more than 50 percent.
Needless to say, the Diversion Authority wasn’t impressed with this information. Suggestions of crop insurance and easements on the entire area were met with claims of “double dipping” and “over compensation” for people unlucky enough to be in the staging area.
The snow-making that’s been a part of the Diversion Authority’s public relations mantra, systematically understates costs and impacts and overstates benefits of their project. The 100 percent cost overruns of the mini-diversion projects at Breckenridge and Roseau, Minn., have borne out the Army Corps’ reputation of grossly understating costs and construction time. But the Corps knows they have local special assessments, sales tax and state revenues to bail them out. Springtime comes, and the snow is starting to melt.