Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
May 26th, 2016
Wahpeton Daily News
Republished with permission from:
News Flash: In 2016, a rogue government entity can walk into your yard, take ownership of your property, without due process, no answers given, and say “We’ll agree on a price later.”
The Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority exercised “quick-take” eminent domain on three landowners south of Horace last week, at the direction of Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. One of them is retiree Don Cossette, whose family owns farmland in a life trust, with the proceeds supporting his mother who lives in a nursing home.
But no more.
The income from land rent is gone, because the farmer who planted the crop is not allowed on the property.
In a federal court affidavit filed last week, Fargo’s city attorney declared, “The Attorney General of North Dakota advised counsel for the Diversion Authority … that the State Engineer has accepted the Diversion Authority’s proposal for the property acquisition process …”
State residents and legislators alike should be mortified that “quick-take” was used. The diversion and dam have not been funded or cleared by the federal court to proceed. What was meant to be a process of last resort has become a course of first opportunity, and “Quick-Take Wayne” signed off on it.
Fargo wants to flood 50,000 acres upstream of the proposed diversion, including farms, homes, cemeteries and roads. Those residents were never included in the planning process. They’ve been bullied, defamed and ridiculed. Now Fargo simply walks on their property and takes ownership. It’s heartbreaking that Fargo’s intimidation extends to the Attorney General’s office. Whether Stenehjem’s political opportunism made him seek the support of Fargo’s political bullies, or whether he truly believes quick-take eminent domain is a useful tool of government is hard to say.
All North Dakota property owners should be nervous, as any pipeline, ditch or sewage lagoon can justify the overnight taking of your land with no regard for cause. It’s shocking that Stenehjem allowed this to happen and it’s sad the Cossettes have to suffer it.