Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date:
November 1st, 2012
Wahpeton Daily News
Republished with permission from:
Author: Perry Miller, a Richland County commissioner, is chairman of the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority.
Until two weeks ago, the citizens of Bakke, Hickson, and Oxbow, all part of Pleasant Township, were told they had no choice. A ring dike was out of the question. The U.S. Army Corps would allow a ring dike on homes, farmsteads and towns within the 80-square-mile reservoir only if they were determined to have “less than a three foot of additional flooding … (and only after) a risk and safety assessment determines minimal risk.” Appendix G SDEIS. The Fargo Diversion Authority intends to “stage” 7 to 10 feet of water on these communities and so a ring dike was out of the question.
The first “switch” came in the form of what Mayor Walacker lauded as “the grand solution:” a ring dike around Hickson/Bakke/Oxbow, 17 feet in height on the river side of this community. But the idea of this 17-foot-high ring dike would only be looked into if all the residents were on board.
Dennis Biewer, president of the members of the Bakke Homeowners Association and township supervisor for Pleasant Township, was called Oct. 2 by both Keith Berndt, Cass County coordinator, and Aaron Snyder, Army Corps project manager. They informed him that the idea of a ring dike would only be explored if his community was in favor of the idea and that they needed to know by Oct. 11. Biewer was informed that the Diversion Authority would not waste time or money on the idea if the community was not on board. Wanting to be clear, Mr. Biewer asked for clarification. He was assured that the Corps would not go forward, would not look further into the idea of a ring dike unless the residents want it.
Taking the U.S. Army Corps at its word, and crunched for time, the citizens of Bakke, Hickson and Pleasant Township had a public meeting to discuss the issue. Their decision not to live in a 17-foot-bowl surrounded by 40 degree water was unanimous. Mr. Biewer then communicated the decision of his constituents to the U.S. Army Corps and to Cass County within the time frame they had given him to respond.
The second “switch” came with news that the “we would like to know by Thursday” deadline was phony.Cass County leaders went to the media and proclaimed that the residents of Bakke, Hickson and Pleasant Township were going to be given more time to make an “informed” decision. “Switch” number three came with news that Cass County and the U.S. Army Corps were proceeding to conduct a study of the idea, despite the rejection of those who would be condemned to live within the 17-foot walls. Cass County will now be making the decision for Hickson and Bakke.
The double cross has become “part of the process” for the Diversion Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: “To betray by acting in contradiction to a prior agreement.” Cass County, acting contrary to their repeated assurances, and the Democratic process of the residents of Pleasant Township, Bakke and Hickson, decided that they make the rules. As if we needed any further lesson to see that yet again, this project is designed by Fargo, for the benefit of only Fargo, at the expense of, and to the detriment of everyone else.