by author: Greg Anderson, Oxbow, N.D.
When the Fargo-Moorhead diversion project was first proposed, the city of Oxbow, N.D., asked how the community would be affected. We were told that the project would neither help nor harm us. In subsequent discussions, after it had become clear that the project would not live up to those assurances, the city inquired about possible changes to the alignment. We were repeatedly told that the diversion alignment is not so easily changed and that in the design phase, it may move “feet, not miles.” If this is true, then it seems fair to conclude from the new northern alignment that when an Army Corps of Engineers project moves into design, all changes, no matter how significant, are converted to feet.
The Dec. 13 Forum editorial (“Diversion changes expected”) says: “No project of the diversion’s size and scope has been more transparent.” This is curious. One would think that such a transparent project would have announced the shift from downstream impacts to upstream impacts, including a dam and 200,000 acre-foot reservoir, prior to the scheduled vote on the county sales tax. Are we to believe that a complete reversal of the project’s operational strategy was developed in the few days between the vote and the Nov. 18 announcement? As voters and taxpayers, weren’t we entitled to this information before being asked to cast a vote?
Oxbow has repeatedly inquired about the origins of the current southern alignment, asking why the natural flood plain is being drained and why this water is being pushed south to areas that are generally above FEMA’s new 100-year flood plain elevation. Each time, the corps has said that this is the “best technical line” for the channel, an engineering selection. What follows is a quote from the value engineering portion of the >>view document>> FEIS, Appendix O, proposal #3: “… the alignment is a locally preferred alignment and therefore they chose the general location of the inlet. Their reasoning for the location of the inlet being farther south than the MN alignment was to accommodate the city of Fargo’s current future plans of development …”
Col. Michael J. Price of the corps, in his letter to the editor in the same edition of The Forum, minimizes the comments of the Value Engineering Study team, implying that they weren’t associated with the project long enough to know that of which they speak. It seems equally plausible, however, that since this team was independent and removed from the day-to-day corps process, this “fresh set of eyes” simply didn’t receive the approved list of talking points.
Perhaps the VE team should have been granted more than four days to do their work. After all, isn’t there something backward in a strategy that removes low ground from flooding while imposing the same on higher ground? Perhaps they would have picked up on that.
Improving protection for Fargo is important, but if we’re going to spend billions on flood protection, shouldn’t we be working toward the best possible solution – one that provides flood relief on a more regional basis?