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FM Diversion and Dam Increases national debt

Diversion’s Engineering Depends on the Nature of Flood Threat

Rodger Olsen and Kevin Campbell, who serve on the public outreach committee of the Flood Diversion Authority, submitted a joint letter to the Fargo Forum.

The back peddling being done by diversion officials over the 500 year vs 100 year flood levels is rather entertaining.

Early on, the USACE offered up viable solutions to address potential flood threats, however, the non-federal sponsors set and UNREALISTIC 500 year flood protection goals and are now lamenting that they cannot be reached.

Despite the USACE, on numerous occasions, admitting that the current proposals would not fully protect the metro-area, the non-federal sponsors continued to obsess over a 500 year flood protection goal.

More cost effective alternatives were rejected in pursuit of the UNREALISTIC 500 year flood protection goals.

The handwriting is on the wall, and the proponents are faced with the reality that they have spent millions on a deficient proposal that offers 100 year flood protection with features that will require additional tax dollars each event to get closer, but never achieve, 500 year flood protection.  Which would be over and above the 3 to 5 million in annual maintenance costs.

Now the political fallout begins!

The millions of tax dollars wasted pursuing a goal that could not be achieved in a disingenuous ploy to sensationalize an alleged crisis to divert attention away from the fostering of development in a natural flood plain.

Here is the letter, excerpts and commentary.,


Diversion’s Engineering Depends on the Nature of Flood Threat
Letter By: Rodger Olson and Kevin Campbell,

Letter: There is some confusion these days over how much flood risk reduction the F-M Metro Area Flood Diversion Project would provide. We would like to clarify.

You’ve probably heard public comments over the past couple of years saying the diversion would give us protection from a 500-year flood. However, based on the plan put forth in the final feasibility study, the diversion project is intended to provide 100-year-flood level of risk reduction.

This means that with the diversion project in place, the communities of Fargo and Moorhead would need only very minor emergency protection measures during a 100-year flood event.

A 100-year flood event is now estimated at 42.4 feet, based on the 2010 findings from an expert panel of scientists and hydrologists formed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

COMMENTARY: Interesting how clearly vague Rodger Olsen or Kevin Campbell can be in their “clarification” of a 100 year flood event by failing to delineate which river gauge the 42.4 foot flood level is associated to.

Fargo Moorhead’s current flood mitigation infrastructure efforts will accomplish 100 year flood protection. However, the “expert panel of scientists and hydrologists” formed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are creating the “evidence” to support the “studies” and “designs goals” they are creating.

It appears the USACE has manipulated their 100 year and 500 year flood level and created a known disconnect from FEMA 100 and 500 year flood plain maps.

FEMA, incidentally, being the agency that provides federal assistance during and after a disaster and determines the flood plain levels that associate to federal flood insurance claims.

Letter: The changed definition of flood levels in Fargo is a result of changing hydrologic conditions, and is not caused by the proposed diversion project. The expert panel concluded that the current wet cycle has changed the definition of flood events such that the flood of record in 2009 is now estimated to be equivalent to a 50-year flood with a crest of 40.8 feet.

COMMENTARY: The “expert panel” will pursue the conclusions they want to support the claims they make. Meteorologist Rob Kupec of WDAY reported on March 21st, 2012 –  “The main difference in the numbers comes from the years looked at. FEMA averages all the years prior to 2002, while the Army Corps uses 1942 to 2010.”  

The “experts” chose to intentionally throw out 32 years of data  and use different data to support their goal driven conclusions, yet become frustrated when concern is raised over the Corps’ creation of 100 and 500 year flood levels from 68 years worth of data.

According to WDAY, FEMA experts looked at the past 100 years and concluded that that “FEMA’s current 100 year level is 38.5 feet. That’s expected to go to 39.5 feet when new flood maps come out.”

Letter: While the diversion project provides 100-year- flood level of protection, it also gives us a fighting chance at protecting ourselves from a 500-year flood, but only when combined with emergency flood-fighting measures throughout our cities, such as the clay and sandbag dikes that had to be constructed during the 2009 flood fight.

The permanent dikes and levees now being built in Fargo-Moorhead and in Cass and Clay counties will complement the diversion project to reduce our flood risk from events larger than a 100-year flood.

COMMENTARY: The 2009 flood event was the highest flood level on record in Fargo. While there is valid debate over the downgrading of the 2009 flood using selective data, the highest flood level may or may not ever be exceeded.

The USACE assigned a probability of .02 percent chance of ever reaching a 500 year event. Which in layman terms is a 99.98 percent chance of NEVER occurring. The current flood protection measures underway in Fargo and Moorhead provide a realistic line of defense that can be augmented if conditions change.

Letter: Without the diversion project, we likely could not win a fight against a 100-year or larger flood. The 2009 flood – the worst flood we’ve ever fought – was approximately a 50-year event. It took everything we had, and scores of volunteers from all around, to “win” that battle. Even at that, we came closer to losing our fight than most people realize.

COMMENTARY: Nothing like creating a crisis, to rally public fears, to drive a political agenda.  Fact: The Fargo Moorhead metro area has successfully battled the river channel which they’ve restricted by urban growth and infrastructure.  Continual development southward will only create greater future flood risks for the metro area to contend with in the form of higher water levels in the river channel directly relating to destruction of natural flood plains and displacement of natural flood plain water.

The 2009 event would have looked very differently for the region had Fargo not been allowed to develop the natural flood plains south of Fargo since 1969.

The proposed destruction and development of the last remaining natural flood plain adjacent to Fargo could put an additional 5 billion dollars of infrastructure at risk in the last remaining natural flood plain south of Fargo.  The same officials using Minot, ND as a spectacle comparison to Fargo flood impacts don’t connect their own dots on how they are creating a greater future potential disaster for Fargo.

In all this fervor , why has the flood plain management arm of the USACE abandoned their duty of protecting the flood plain in order to save the metro area from its penchant for irresponsible development?

Could it be that the USACE doesn’t generate revenue by responsibly restricting urban development of a natural flood plain?

Letter: Our community would not be dry and thriving like it is today without the efforts of thousands of people who exhausted themselves to save our communities.

The emergency flood-fighting measures used in 2009 and previous floods should not be considered reliable for future flood fights. Emergency levees can fail, dikes can breach and people can succumb to exhaustion.

The diversion project is absolutely needed if we are to survive the kind of flooding that is possible in the F-M metro area.

“Absolutely needed if we are to survive”…, a prime example of the politically charged fear mongering used to induce support for the worst solution to the Red River Valley region flooding issues.   If Fargo, Moorhead, Cass and Clay county, Diversion Authority and the USACE are truly concerned about surviving future floods then it’s time to shore up the infrastructure in place, protect natural flood plains at all costs and forget about expanding the cities borders.

Take a long hard look at the title: “Diversion’s Engineering Depends on the Nature of Flood Threat

A truly basin wide solution would include the Red River Basin Commissions basin-wide retention, which could provide 18 – 25 inches of relief to Fargo and downstream interests.   The Red River Basin Commission has 29+ years of experience dealing with water issues facing the Red River valley.  According to Craig Evans of the USACE, “a feasibility study for such a large project would usually, at-a-minimum, take five to seven years”.  It seems rather questionable for the  USACE to attempt to compress 5-7 years worth of studies relating to the most complex system in America into 21 months.  Even greater is the concern of completely changing manageable flood impacts into the complete destruction of 3 communities, flood impacts to 3 additional communities and severe economic impact to vital farming operations in less than 1 year…, all to offer Fargo future growth.

If “nature” produces a 500 year flood event ~ nearly 61,700 cfs would need to flow through the Fargo Moorhead metro area, however, the current LPP does accommodate that flood threat.   It’s immoral and hypocritical of “officials”  to preach zero impacts downstream and preach superfluous destruction upstream, meanwhile devising plans to develop the last natural flood plain adjacent to Fargo, which is capable of holding over 200,000 acre feet of water.

While it is true that a genuine diversion could reduce the peak crest in Fargo Moorhead, a faux diversion with high risk dams and aqueducts operates very differently.

According to FEMA and the Minnesota DNR,  the current proposed LPP includes two high risk dams, which rarely ever get mentioned, and are located on the Red and Wild Rice Rivers.  These dams will pool water and ensure longer duration events and more frequent “un-natural” flood conditions along the river channel(s).  The man made flood threats will test the engineering deficiencies of the proposed structures and the failure rate of the materials utilized.

The only realistic, responsible and economically viable solution for the Red River Valley would be to implement the Red River Basin Commissions basin-wide retention plans and compliment it with a genuine diversion without 2 high risk dams.

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