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FM Diversion and Dam Increases national debt

Mike McFeely Finds His Nuts

Mike McFeely, Fargo Forum, 970 WDAY

There is a comical idiom that applies to Mike McFeely’s June 4, 2016 column:

“Even a blind squirrel finds
a nut once in a while.”

Which in its basic meaning relates to any person, even McFeely, no matter how ineffective or misguided, “sometimes” they can still be correct just by being lucky.

As much as it pains me to admit that McFeely got something right…, or at least partially right, the hub-bub over the Kinzler house along Rose Coulee was a fair deal to bring Fargo closer to adequate permanent internal flood protection.

Despite the ad nauseum recitations by Fargo, Cass and diversion proponents that Fargo has exceeded an absurdly low flood stage “X” number of years since 1993, the talking heads continue to ignore the remaining fact that development encroachment in the natural flood plains of Rose Coulee and westward along Drain #27, (which begins approximately 1 mile from the proposed diversion inlet), is a significant component to Fargo’s flood woes and mandatory flood insurance requirements.

But enough about that! Let’s take a look at the nuts that McFeely found:

Nut Number 1 Mike McFeely, Jun 4, 2016: “Don and Mary Kinzler did not make off like bandits, they are not laughing all the way to the bank and they did not get a sweetheart deal.”

Agreed. The Kinzler’s did not start this battle nor did they roll-over and give into unreasonable demands made by the very city that fostered unrestricted development encroachment into the last natural flood plains upstream of Fargo, which displaced massive amounts of water, created dangerous new impacts and changed the base flood elevation in Fargo – a primary reason behind mandatory flood insurance for many property owners.

Nut Number 2 Mike McFeely, Jun 4, 2016: “The Kinzler situation is unique in Fargo’s recent history of property acquisition for flood protection. Normally, the city buys out a home or a business and it gets bulldozed to make room for a dike or floodwall. Then the owner buys a new home or business. This is different, more complicated.”

Agreed. Every property acquisition is unique and should be treated as such. Along those same lines, city planners have to be less incompetent and restrict development encroachment into the last natural flood plain – so as to to not cause new flood impacts, which could establish additional property acquisitions.

Nut Number 3 Mike McFeely, Jun 4, 2016: “A majority of the commission also decided eminent domain proceedings would’ve been more costly and damaging than reaching an agreement in this case. So they OK’d the Kinzler package.”

Agreed. Eminent Domain is a costly process and rightfully so. It is intended to be a “last resort” option for governmental entities as a way to ensure property owners are “made whole” and their financial interests are not adversely affected.

Nut Number 4 Mike McFeely, Jun 4, 2016: “There are many difficult, expensive buyouts ahead. Some in the neighborhood of $2 million or more. Negotiations will be brutal. It will be expensive. That is admittedly worrisome. More worrisome than the almighty taxpayer dollars, though, is the precedent of a couple of citizens’ public vivisection because they negotiated with the city and some didn’t like or understand the outcome.”

Agreed. The $2.2 billion dollar price tag of the Fargo Dam and FM Diversion project does not reflect the reality that future buyouts are going to run a hefty sum. However, there is NO JUSTIFIABLE REASON for any property owner to acquiesce to low-ball offers and eminent domain demands for the arrogance of pushing a project forward at all costs.

That is the most fundamental underlying point in the entire boondoggle.

The taxpaying public has never been presented an honest assessment of the real all-inclusive costs associated with the proposed project because project proponents are relying on incrementalism as momentum to prejudice decision making in favor of economic development disguised as flood control.

Will the sum of the parts become greater than the whole?

Projects where the USACE are involved invariably over-budget.

Project Name Original
Budget Est.
CostFinal Status
Breckenridge, MN
$23 m + 93.9 % $44.5 m Essentially Complete
Wahpeton, ND
Flood Control
$10 m + 161 % $26.1 m Essentially Complete
Roseau, MN
$24.3 m + 83.6 % $44.6 m Essentially Complete
Olmsted Dam, Ohio $775 m + 300 % $3.1 BILLION INCOMPLETE

Some That Got Away

Acorn Nuts

As per ususal, Mike McFeely relied on personal myopic viewpoints to chide commissioners that are willing to ask the hard fiscal questions amidst a hostile environment, in their efforts to watch the taxpayer coffers and prevent a Stockton, CA mess from evolving in Fargo, ND.

What’s wrong with that picture?

It is readily apparent that the entire project was formed out of duress, along with recent Kinzler house fiasco, with not one economic model reflecting what will happen if/when a significant downturn in the local economy occurs. How will the multi-billion dollar project financial markers be met, then?

Mike McFeely, Jun 4, 2016: “Taxpayer money, of course, because that is and will always be Gehrig’s fallback position—saving taxpayer money regardless of collateral damage. Gehrig and Dave Piepkorn voted against the city’s deal with the Kinzlers in executive session.”


Mike McFeely, Jun 4, 2016: “The process worked. A citizen worked in good faith with Fargo to reach an equitable deal so the city can move forward with flood protection. It wasn’t perfect, but this is what is supposed to happen. Win-win.”

It appears that McFeely is incapable of comprehending that it is the taxpayers money, not Fargo’s and taxpayers a have a right to representation on how those dollars are spent. It is why we have elections. It gives taxpayers a chance at fending off career politicians and their “connections” from delving deeper into your wallet.

As for the process being “win-win”, that is a debatable point. The only real process that worked is a private citizen stood up for themselves and protected their financial interests in the face of adversity and uncertainty.

The city is not perfect nor are its plans “benevolent” – the city is “obsessed” with irresponsible expansion into the last natural flood plain at all costs, which has culminated into the present issues facing Fargo, ND.

The remaining question for those that have not already drunk the Fargo Kool-aid is when does the cost of the land grab outweigh any actual benefit – other than future development areas and generations of future taxation?

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