Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
May 9th, 2013
Wahpeton Daily News
Republished with permission from:
Cash Aaland, Richland County resident and board member Mndak Upstream Coalition
The U.S. Army Corps, in their preferred plan, located the southern inlet to the F-M Diversion just north of the confluence of the Wild Rice and Red rivers. This plan did not call for a dam and reservoir. The inlet was later moved several miles south after Fargo convinced the Army Corps to expand the project, more than doubling the size of the area to be protected.
Under Fargo’s plan, the current plan, the diversion not only protects Fargo, but drains 30,000 acres of rural Cass County land for future development. If you recall, Fargo’s expanded plan initially eliminated so much flood plain and moved the water so fast that it resulted in unacceptable impacts to communities north of Fargo. To remedy this situation the Army Corps proposed a Class One high hazard dam to detain the water in a reservoir covering 50,000 acres in four counties and two states: Cass and Richland, North Dakota; and Clay and Wilkin, Minnesota.
Sometime after this, a value engineering team of the Army Corps considered the option (VE3) of moving the southern inlet of the F-M Diversion north, back to the location the Army Corps designated in their preferred plan. This team determined that doing this would save approximately $150 million as no dam or “control structure” would then be required on the Wild Rice River. This VE3 option was quickly dismissed. The reason set out by the Army Corps for not exploring this option was that it would interfere with the local sponsor’s – Fargo – current plan for future development. (FEIS, Value Engineering, proposal No. 3).
When the details and impacts of Fargo’s expanded plan became clear, I wrote a scathing letter to the Fargo Forum criticizing their lack of reporting as it seemed clear to me that if the VE3 option was implemented and the project reduced to the size originally proposed by the Corps, the reservoir or staging area would be located in what is now a natural flood plain – far fewer acres would be under water and taxpayers would save over $100 million.
The Forum published my letter. Col. Price, regional commander of the U.S. Army Corps, responded with a published letter saying the Army Corps was “studying it.” We have since heard nothing. Nearly two years have passed – no details of any study have ever been disclosed.
Members of my community have continued to look at this option and even sought the advice of engineers knowledgeable on the topic. Our public statements pushing the VE3 option have met with continued silence from Fargo and the Army Corps. This proposal not only minimizes impacts, it is cost effective. Like the Army Corps preferred plan, the VE3 option would preserve the flood plain south of Fargo. This option would not require communities south of Fargo to sacrifice for Fargo’s future development. Thus the silence.
What do you say Col. Price? What has your study indicated?