Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
March 28, 2013
Wahpeton Daily News
Republished with permission from:
Trana Rogne, Richland County Resident and Board Member of the MnDak Upstream Coalition.
The front page of the Fargo Forum of March 15, 2013, was a reminder of a disturbing aspect of flooding in Fargo. The owners of the buyout homes put up for auction at fire sale prices have our sympathy. They did not expect to be bought out due to flooding. Even though they received 110% of assessed value, theirs is a loss that can’t always be made up by dollars.
The city of Fargo has received the building permit fees, the building contractors and engineers have been paid, and the banks and title companies have made their profits.
We cannot fault the contractors who make a living off of hard work and sweat, but we can blame Fargo and Cass County for the negligent permitting of development in high risk areas. Presently the official FEMA 100 year floodplain elevation is 38.5 at the Fargo gage. This is due to be increased to 39.5 in 2014. Despite Fargo’s stated position that the 100 year flood plain should be 42.5, the city continues to issue permits for construction to the level of 39.5. There have been thirteen flood plain stages since 1944, so it’s hard to believe zoning officials didn’t know the risk. Instead, they keep issuing building permits, and are now buying out some of those very homes.
Fargo officials have admitted they could have done a better job of permitting. They blame the developers and offer the excuse that the developers have put the city in jeopardy with threats of legal action. At the same time, they admit the new homes the city is permitting may likely be bought out in the future. Why the Corps of Engineers is eagerly promoting a diversion plan which induces growth in the flood plain is another issue.
By its nature, development is developer driven growth, and the city’s job is to look out for the best interests of the citizens. What we see on the front page of the Forum are examples of prior neglect of duty on the part of city and county officials injuring the very citizens they are supposed to protect.
Who is the loser in all this? Certainly not those who profit from development. Financially, the homeowner is not the loser, but a pawn in this sad game. The real loser is the state and local taxpayer who unwittingly pays to buy out homes that never should have been built. Yet the city continues to neglect permanent flood protection to construct dams and a diversion to encourage/induce further growth in the flood plain.