Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
May 21, 2015
Wahpeton Daily News
Republished with permission from:
JPA Editorial Team
The money’s not there. Despite the Diversion Authority’s desperate charade to pretend they have funding for their big ditch firmly in hand, they don’t. Their widely promoted façade of money bags stacked to the sky is just an illusion.
Here are the facts. This cost estimate for the project is $2 billion. Fargo can come up with about half that amount during the next 10 years between their sales tax and what the state of North Dakota has agreed to kick in. Most everyone from Washington to Watford City has figured out the $850 million from the federal government will never come. There’s a list of other high-priced water projects as long as your arm that are ahead of them in the federal soup line.
Even at a modest borrowing rate, the local sales tax won’t cover the interest on a note to cover the federal share. Then take a close look at their 5-year-old cost estimate. The St. Paul Army Corps office has planned two small diversion projects in the last 10 years. Both doubled in cost. This one crosses four rivers, has a dam and a 36-mile-long channel. The diversion’s first phase, an estimated $65 million ring dike and country club plan at Oxbow, will likely double in cost. The Corps’ record seems to be on track with this project already.
So what can Fargo do?
Provide the flood protection and relief from FEMA flood insurance requirements that their city needs. Fargo adopted a plan to build their dikes and levees to 44 feet three years ago, but have been dragging their feet on its completion. It doesn’t give them 20,000 acres in the flood plain south of town for a development bonanza, but it protects their homes and businesses. The state has already appropriated enough money for Fargo to protect their city.
The recent assessment vote that passed, despite a majority of property owners voting against it, does not provide any new money for the project. It only allows them to borrow more. The Diversion Authority’s attempts to qualify for a private firm to build the diversion doesn’t bring in any more cash, either. It’s tied to a federal bonding plan that also lets them borrow more money but makes no provision for paying it back.
Businesses cease to exist with cash flow plans like these.
Cities and counties can end up in bankruptcy just as easily. Residents should ask the Diversion Authority to put the Hollywood sets away, and give a true accounting of their plans.