Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
May 14, 2015
Wahpeton Daily News
Republished with permission from:
JPA Editorial Team
Fargo’s Diversion leaders have spent $60 million in taxpayer funds on a ring dike, buyouts and a golf course for Oxbow, North Dakota. Oxbow did not need the buyouts or the flood protection. The city is located above the flood plain, had already bought out its flood-prone houses and, according to its mayor, had just completed near 500-year-level flood protection. Its existing 18-hole private golf course, heavily in debt with a history of losing money, did not deserve a public bailout.
Fargo’s Diversion leaders gambled this sum on the belief Minnesota would permit the Diversion Authority to dam the Red River and flood 80 square miles upstream of Fargo centered on Oxbow and Comstock, Minnesota. If the dam cannot be built, the ring dike, golf course and buyouts are wholly unnecessary and a complete waste of tax dollars.
According to Minnesota law and the terms of Congress’ authorization of the project, the dam cannot be built unless the state of Minnesota agrees and issues a permit. Minnesota’s DNR hasn’t completed its review or made a decision on whether to issue the dam construction permit. Minnesota officials charged with the decision have made statements indicating their attitude toward Fargo’s project. Take a look at some of what Minnesota has said and done so far:
|•||Nov. 4, 2011 – Assistant DNR Commissioner Carol, in correspondence to the Army Corps, said the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion project is premised upon an exaggerated level of proposed protection. The exaggerated level operated to eliminate less impactful solutions. Carol also pointed out the Army Corps used future development of the flood plain to justify cost and did not properly consider alternatives to the high hazard dam. Carol reiterated that Minnesota law requires denial of the permit if the project is not the least impactful solution|
|•||April 2013 to February 2014 – MN DNR issued a scoping decision, providing that during the MN environmental study, DNR will be evaluating alternatives: Whether no dam is a better option, a combination of measures in lieu of the high hazard dam is a better option and if a smaller project located further north would be preferable|
|•||January 2014 – DNR Project Director Townley sends a letter warning the Diversion Authority that starting the levee for Oxbow, Hickson, Bakke, or even acquiring land, would violate state and federal law. April 2014, DNR Commissioner Carol, agrees after the Diversion Authority calls MN DNR “confused”|
|•||July 2014 – MN Attorney General filed an amicus brief in federal court, essentially joining Richland Wilkin JPA’s lawsuit against the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion|
|•||August 2014 – MN Gov. Mark Dayton sent a letter to Army Corps, Congress and the White House demanding the project halt and Minnesota’s law be respected|
|•||September 2014 – Fargo’s defiance of Minnesota prompts Dayton to visit Breckenridge and Moorhead. Speaking out strongly against the Diversion Authority, Dayton warned, “If you’re going to kick sand in the face of Minnesota … it will come back to haunt you. I’m certain of that.”|
|•||March 2015 – MN Attorney General files another brief joining Richland Wilkin JPA’s request for an injunction and warning the Diversion Authority that Minnesota may deny the dam permit.|
Do you think Fargo’s leaders made a good gamble with $60 million of taxpayers’ money, even after Minnesota formally objected to the project? Fargo’s Diversion Authority leaders either don’t care about wasting taxpayers’ money, don’t really know what they are doing, or have no intention of honoring Minnesota law. Maybe all three?