This is report from members of the MNDak Upstream Coalition who meet with the project managers for the Fargo Moorhead Dam and Diversion project (some text was removed for clarity.)
We met with the engineers from the CH2M yesterday afternoon. Rodger Olsen was also there. They had contacted me late last week about discussing ag issues relating to the project.
We made clear the idea that basin wide retention was the only option that made sense for storing water upstream of the diversion. They questioned our position that this is a lousy place to store water. It appeared they had limited knowledge of the study done by the Red River Basin Commission. The engineers didn’t believe locations had been identified for storage, and that made retention unrealistic. The study states that locations have been identified and they used them for the results. Hopefully they will follow up the conversation with Charlie Anderson. They said in our first meeting that they were going to include him in the process.
We also suggested that it is important they get a realistic damage total for the areas they are proposing to flood. Magically stopping the effects along the Wild Rice at highway 46 doesn’t make much sense. We drove over to Todd Toppen’s farm, and stood in his driveway at 920 feet. It was a perfect spot to view the bridge and river running under it. We pointed out that the red line runs along highway.( red line denotes known and compensated water impacts; water level is higher on one side of the bridge than the other?)
We visited about crop insurance, late planting, loss of production according to planting date, and the compounding effect of soil saturation in and out of the mitigation area. Several of the engineers were from the South, or Colorado area, and don’t understand that delayed planting means reduced yields. Rodger was able to confirm that every time you get a reduced yield, crop insurance coverage is reduced, and becomes more expensive. That will have an effect on land values. We spent a fair amount of time on that.
They were interested in ring dikes for farmsteads and access to homesteads. They have spent little time considering our secondary road system, and how it would work when they operated the dam. We’ll see if any of that makes a difference.
We did learn a few things from them. One was that a condition of easements will be no future construction or development. This is the school district and county and township revenue impact. The townships will still have to maintain the waterlogged roads with reduced values and no increased revenue to fix them.
There was also an interesting conversation about who they work for. They say they are working for the Diversion Authority. They take credit for changing the alignment of the diversion channel on the north end. Aaron was adamant that the Army Corps is making ALL the technical decisions the last time I visited with him. Tom Waters, their lead engineer, responded the process is a three way relationship that they have a part of. We asked about the role of Value Engineering, and Tom immediately brought up Cash Aaland’s letter to the editor that required a response from Price. We didn’t mention it. He explained that Value Engineering is a process within the Corps to review project costs. The actually review may be done by Corps engineers or by hired consultants. That keeps them on the hook for making decisions based on economic development.