Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is important, especially when negotiations depend on the good faith of the parties involved. But so are the facts. So we need to “trust but verify” and make sure we keep our eyes wide open.
As we move forward with the Governors’ Task Force on the future of the FM Diversion, we need to keep some things straight.
First: the appeal filed last week by the Diversion Authority. Let’s be clear. As a precondition to the task force meeting, Governor Burgum got MN to agree that the negotiations will proceed even though Fargo appeals. The Appeal is one thing only: Fargo and Governor Burgum refusing to agree that Minnesota should get a voice in whether a high hazard dam is built on the Red River by Fargo and the Army Corps. They are appealing Judge Tunheim’s ruling that the Minnesota has a right to object to Fargo’s intentional flooding of Minnesota’s lands. So when the Vice Chair of the Diversion Authority, Del Rae Williams, Governor Burgum, sit around that table – they are doing so without conceding MN’s right permit this project. They are talking without first conceding that Minnesota’s laws need to be respected. That is what last week’s appeal means.
Secondly: There are a few other facts that need to be kept in mind. A few weeks ago, in a Forum Op-ed former Governor Ed Schafer (read more…) claimed that Governor Burgum was not involved in the “FM Flood Protection Coalition” (read more…). This organization convinced the FM Diversion Authority, 7 years ago, to shift the goal of the Diversion from flood protection to flood plain development by doubling the foot print of the Army Corps preferred diversion plan. Schafer suggested that someone confused Burgum with Ron Bergan, a prominent Fargo citizen. This was pure flim-flam by Schafer. Burgum, along with Schafer, were founding members of the “FM Flood Protection Coalition” (read more…) that included Ron Bergan, Steve Scheel and Ron Offut. This was reported by the Forum in a 2009 article by Helmut Schmidt (read more…) quoting Ed Schafer. The article reported that Burgum was for the expanded diversion in part because: “ …high levees along the Red would ruin views of the river, force the removal of homes, and act as a barrier between the cities of Fargo and Moorhead…”
Schafer also falsely asserted that the smaller Army Corps preferred plan would have “push[ed] water all the way to Mapleton.” This is especially absurd because the Burgum, Burgen, Schafer plan, narrated by Ed Schafer in a video produced by this group, actually argued for doubling the foot print and intentionally transferring Fargo’s flood plain west, flooding Mapleton behind a ring levee.
Don’t take our word for it; listen to Ed for yourself at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahiw3I4D8jc
Thirdly: An error by Schafer was his assertion that “the legislature approved $66.5 million for the Diversion Authority.” Again, don’t take our word for it, read HB 1020 yourself at: HOUSE BILL NO. 1020 (Appropriations Committee)
The legislature did not designate any money for the Diversion. Instead 136 million was designated for flood control but subject to budget section approval. The Republican majority budget section reserved the right to direct these monies elsewhere if the FM Diversion project was not permitted. They had been informed that an injunction might be coming. Burgum vetoed this specific language and you can read that at: http://www.legis.nd.gov/
Governor Burgum then transferred 66 million to the State Water Commissioner for Fargo after his veto. He did this on the eve of the Federal Court injunction that stopped Diversion construction.
Finally: Schafer disputes that Governor Burgum provided media consultants to the Diversion Authority. The minutes of the February Diversion Authority Outreach Committee provide: “Governor Doug Burgum provided consultants with creative suggestions to integrate social media into the Communication Plan for the Metro Flood Diversion Project.” (read more…) Schafer tried to distinguish between Burgum providing consultants or doing the consulting himself. Either way Governor Burgum has been a strong proponent for the current plan while at the same time refusing to even meet with the upstream people who were going to be impacted.
The upstream opponents of the FM Diversion hope that everyone on the Governors’ Diversion Task Force, including Governor Burgum and his appointee Ron Bergan, operate in good faith to find a way to give Fargo permanent flood protection. But we are not going to do that by ignoring facts or, in former Governor Schafer’s case, misstating them.