Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
March 3rd, 2016
Wahpeton Daily News
Republished with permission from:
JPA Editorial Team
The Cass County Joint Water Resource District is contacting landowners in Pleasant and Stanley townships near the intersection of Cass County 16 and 17. The Water Resource District is threatening to “acquire” a number of properties by an eminent domain procedure known as “quick take.”
Fargo’s Diversion Authority has promised to prematurely commence construction on the southwest corner of the diversion dam and they need the property before they can begin. Take heart, property owners, and don’t be bullied. Here are some encouraging facts regarding your rights and Fargo’s prospects.
With the exception of Fargo’s internal flood protection construction, federal law prohibits Fargo from commencing the diversion project. Until Minnesota approves the high hazard dam – unlikely at best – or until the federal law suit is resolved and all local permits are issued, Fargo cannot lawfully move forward. “Acquisition of land” is included in that prohibition. A federal judge issued an injunction spanking Fargo’s Diversion Authority after they violated these laws. Any action to “acquire” your land by using eminent domain will violate those laws and the basis upon which pending federal court injunction was issued. Any action to take these properties will likely result in the Richland Wilkin Joint Powers Authority bringing the matter to the attention of the federal judge who determined the Diversion Authority’s levee construction around Oxbow was unlawful.
Even if this federal injunction didn’t exist, the “quick take” provisions of North Dakota’s eminent domain law can only be used for projects for which state or federal funds have been “appropriated.” The North Dakota Legislature has conditioned state money on the Diversion Authority first obtaining federal funding. According to the terms of the recent U.S. Army Corps’ civil works budget, there can be no federal funding, no project start and no project partnership agreement until all state and federal permit issues are resolved.
Technically, the Cass County Joint Water Resource District cannot even lawfully acquire this property by purchase. No landowner objects, however, when the Diversion Authority offers insane amounts of taxpayer money to purchase their property. The Diversion Authority has been paying its friends in Oxbow $25,000 per acre for farmland and 488 percent of taxable value for rural residences. In the unlikely event Fargo ever gets to acquire diversion lands by eminent domain, North Dakota law gives property owners the right to have a jury decide the price and to have the Diversion Authority pay the attorney’s fees the landowners had to spend to assert their rights.
So take heart, property owners. Don’t be bullied or bluffed into surrendering your rights and the heritage your family has spent generations preserving. The law protects you and you have allies in the MnDak Upstream Coalition and the Richland Wilkin JPA. Seek legal counsel immediately if you are contacted.
If you do ultimately choose to sell – don’t settle for less than the Oxbow premium pricing.