Additional Content 1234567891011 Last »
FM Diversion and Dam Increases national debt

Misinformation

Fargo Diversion Authority (Trust Us)

The Fargo Dam and FM Diversion Authority has a public relations issue.

In an attempt to control a crumbling image and public perception relating the Fargo Dam and FM Diversion project, project proponents have released several pieces of misinformation in an attempt to quell eroding support for their multi-billion dollar project.

Project proponents adhere to another myopic philosophy:

“…if you’re not with us, you’re against us…”

This sentiment is parroted by many Fargo Dam and FM Diversion Authority spokespersons.

Project proponents mis-characterize opposition to the proposed project as “persons that don’t understand the project”.

This “authoritarian-ism” is central to why Imperial Fargo / Imperial Cass is regarded as such.

Residents within Fargo are constantly bombarded with a message of fear tied to FEMA flood insurance requirements, yet the city continues to expand into the natural flood plain, which displaces water onto the existing homes and places more properties at risk.

Here are several topics, in no particular order:

1. I thought levees alone are good enough flood protection?
False or Misleading Correct Information
Levees can’t be built high enough to protect Fargo-Moorhead from a 100-year flood event. On January 16, 2015 the updated FEMA 100 year B.F.E. (base flood elevation) of 39.4 feet went into effect, which provides Fargo with a free-board tolerance capacity of an additional 37.2 inches.

Fargo could protect the majority of it’s businesses homes and infrastructure with dikes and levees.  The comprehensive plan adopted in August 2014 outlines the solution. They cannot protect potential development areas in the natural flood plain surrounding the city without a diversion.

The Fargo Dam and FM Diversion Authority is using circular reasoning and misdirection on dikes and levees.

The Oxbow, ND ring dike-levee,  Dike West, El Zagal golf course and the West Fargo Diversion utilize high dike/levee embankments, which range 12.5 to 22.5 feet in height.

The proposed Fargo Dam and FM Diversion will utilize earthen embankments and concrete structures similar in height along the 36+ mile route.

Fargo’s development interests via the Fargo Dam and FM Diversion Authority are arguing that flood protection needs 25-50 years in the future are needed to protect the existing city to shift flood proofing costs from developers to taxpayers.

2. Smaller water retention projects upstream will eliminate the need for the large upstream staging area in southern Cass County.
False or Misleading Correct Information
The most reliable way to control flooding is by retaining water closer to the area you want to protect. Retaining smaller amounts of water can help, but it’s not a 100% reliable way to control flooding 100% of the time. Any water you remove in the watershed will reduce flood levels. Period.

The Red River Basin Commission developed a plan that would reduce peak streamflows by 20%.  There are no exceptions to where water is stored, only that storage is implemented to achieve flow reduction.

The proposed Fargo Dam and FM Diversion may reduce flood risk, however, it cannot guarantee 100% flood control 100% of the time.

The best and most reliable way to control flooding is to let the natural floodplain do its job.

Continued encroachment of development into the floodplain has displaced water to the south and increased the level of water entering the river, thus forcing the river itself to higher crests.

40,000 to 80,000 acre feet of additional floodplain capacity is currently targeted for development, as outlined in Fargo’s Tier 2 development plan. This displaced water will affect surrounding areas and Minnesota interests.

Downstream impacts are in inches.

Upstream impacts are in feet.

3. There is a better plan out there. This project hasn’t looked at all options.
False or Misleading Correct Information
Dozens of flood protection ideas were studied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, local engineering departments, and the Minnesota DNR; only a Diversion Project with upstream staging provided the level of protection needed to protect the metro area. The claim that all the ideas were considered is patently false.

Cited Source: FEIS 8.4.4
Plan Formulation

“The non-federal sponsor did not request any further consideration be given to those combinations plan considered in section 8.4.3. of this appendix , and all remaining combinations were dropped from further consideration”.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dismissed viable alternatives that did not compliment Fargo’s Tier 1 and 2 growth plans.

Cited Source: FEIS 3.7.5 Appendix C
Flood proofing Cost Savings Benefits

Growth is projected to occur within two development “tiers”. Tier 1, an area adjacent to the present Fargo city limits, is sized to accommodate 25 years of growth at approximately 266 acres per year. Tier 2 is comprised of areas further away from the existing city and is expected to accommodate growth 25-50 years in the future. For years 25 through 50, at is assumed that development will continue at the rate of 266 acres per year. 

In both Tier 1 and Tier 2 most future growth will occur within the 100-year flood plain and, without a flood risk management project, require flood proofing.

In addition to the direct construction cost is the opportunity cost of reduced revenue in the form of lost lot sales (estimated at up to $40,000 per acre) as flood proofed land is less intensively developed from a structural standpoint than non-flood proofed land.

Cost for this measure ranges from $55,000 to $70,000  by either elevating the entire site or acquiring additional properties for fill to elevate their buildings and facilities. For instance, a new Wal-Mart in south Fargo elevated the entire site, building and parking lot. These types of land use would use approximately 42% of the projected develop-able land area.

4. Fargo picked the Diversion route.  I thought the Army Corps preferred the Minnesota Diversion?
False or Misleading Correct Information
The Corps recommended a North Dakota Diversion after looking at numerous alternatives in both MN and ND. The USACE did not recommend the current plan!

The USACE recommended the NED or FCP – a.ka. Minnesota Diversion.

They defined it as having the most benefits for the country.  They said they would pay no more than 65% of Minnesota diversion plan. Fargo officials and developers promised they would pay more if they moved it to the North Dakota side.

Local development interests lobbied for the LPP and eventually coerced the Corps into conceding its position.

Cited Source: FEIS Page 298-299 Appendix O

The ND alignment is a locally preferred alignment and therefore they chose the general location for the inlet. Their reasoning for the location of the inlet being further South than the MN alignment was to accommodate the city of Fargo’s current future plans of development and to protect the city from the Wild Rice River flooding to the South.

5. Minnesota doesn’t need this project. They are already protected.
False or Misleading Correct Information
800 homes in Moorhead are at risk of flooding during a 100-year event, plus many Minnesotans work in Cass County. Since the 2009 flood event the State of Minnesota and Moorhead, MN constructed floodwalls, dikes and levees to provide permanent protection for the city.

According to www.fema.gov ;  as of 2/29/2015 there were 774 NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) policies in-force in Clay county, with only 429 NFIP policies within the city of Moorhead, MN.

Also according the FEMA:  “Freeboard is not required by NFIP standards, but communities are encouraged to adopt at least a one-foot freeboard to account for the one-foot rise built into the concept of designating a floodway and the encroachment requirements where floodways have not been designated.”

Federally backed mortgages. that are in flood risk areas, with or without certified flood protection can require NFIP coverage during the lifetime of the loan.

6. This project is only to protect Fargo’s growth in the floodplain. It’s a Fargo land grab.
False or Misleading Correct Information
The design intent was to benefit as much existing development as possible, while minimizing overall impacts to people and the environment, while at the same time, minimizing costs. The design intent was not met as the new protected flood plain is primarily rural.  No dam or diversion plan was pursued to protect the existing city and infrastructure up to and including 2009.

Cited Source: FEIS Page 298-299 Appendix O

The ND alignment is a locally preferred alignment and therefore they chose the general location for the inlet. Their reasoning for the location of the inlet being further South than the MN alignment was to accommodate the city of Fargo’s current future plans of development and to protect the city from the Wild Rice River flooding to the South.

Cited Source: FEIS Page 29 Appendix O

The North Dakota alignment benefits a greater geographic area and removes 50 more square miles from the 1-percent chance floodplain than the Minnesota alignment. (The North Dakota and Minnesota diversions remove 80 and 30 square miles, respectively, from the 1-percent chance floodplain.)

Cited Source: FEIS Page 40-41 Appendix C

Growth is projected to occur within two development “tiers”. Tier 1, an area adjacent to the present Fargo city limits, is sized to accommodate 25 years of growth at approximately 266 acres per year. Tier 2 is comprised of areas further away from the existing city and is expected to accommodate growth 25-50 years in the future. For years 25 through 50, at is assumed that development will continue at the rate of 266 acres per year. In both Tier 1 and Tier 2 most future growth will occur within the 100-year flood plain and, without a flood risk management project, require flood proofing. In addition to the direct construction cost is the opportunity cost of reduced revenue in the form of lost lot sales (estimated at up to $40,000 per acre) as flood proofed land is less intensively developed from a structural standpoint than non-flood proofed land.

7. This project only protects Fargo.
False or Misleading Correct Information
The project protects from 5 tributaries of the Red River along with 92% of Cass County residents. Approximately 10 percent of Cass county geographical footprint is protected by the proposed project.

The city of West Fargo currently has a diversion and necessary flood protection.

The city of Oxbow, ND is directly impacted requiring a high hazard ring-dike as a result of dam and diversion to create a intermittent man-made lake around the city.

21 of 27 Cass county cities do not directly benefit from the proposed project but are required to collect sales tax to fund flood protection that benefits the remaining city and 5 suburbs.

• Fargo
• Briarwood (internal suburb of Fargo)
• Frontier (internal suburb of Fargo)
• Harwood (external suburb of Fargo)
• Prairie Rose (internal suburb of Fargo)
• Reiles Acres (internal suburb of Fargo)

8. Minnesota DNR will never permit the project.
False or Misleading Correct Information
A final Environmental Impact Statement is expected in May 2016. The project will continue to file for all required permits. The USACE and Fargo Dam and FM Diversion have repeatedly stated they don’t need permits from Minnesota or North Dakota.

On April 14th, 2016 – Fargo, ND Mayor Tim Mahoney was willfully evasive and refused to answer direct questions regarding permitting during a live broadcast of News and Views with host Joel Heitkamp. 790 KFGO.

The Requirements:
Cited Source: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/

Agency Rules. Minnesota Rules, parts 6115.0300 through 6115.0520 govern the state Dam Safety Program. The rules define which dams are subject to state jurisdiction, and establishes three dam hazard classes.

State dam safety regulations apply only to structures that pose a potential threat to public safety or property. The potential for damage downstream if a dam fails increases as the height of the dam and the volume of impounded water increases. State dam safety rules do not apply to dams that are so low or retain so little water as to not pose a threat to public safety or property.

• Permit Guidelines for Dams

9. The Diversion will be stopped by Federal Court
False or Misleading Correct Information
All federal claims have been dismissed. The remaining two state claims will be resolved after the MnDNR releases it’s Determination of Adequacy in Summer 2016. The federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) have a major difference.  NEPA merely requires the federal agency to examine the environmental impacts.

The agency is then free to decide to choose a project that may be harmful and damaging, even when there is a better, less damaging project available.

That is what USACE did here.  They selected the locally preferred project, when there was another project that was more consistent with national policy objectives.

NEPA does not allow the federal court to force the federal agency to pick the better project.

Minnesota’s environmental and permitting law, on the other hand, prohibits the permitting of a project when there is a less damaging feasible alternative.

The Court has specifically stated that the Court is not endorsing the locally preferred project nor is it finding that project environmentally preferable.

Moreover, the Court has reaffirmed that the project may not go forward without clearance from the State of Minnesota.

10. The Diversion violates an executive order that requires federal agencies to consider the impact their projects will have on floodplains.
False or Misleading Correct Information
This claim was dismissed by a federal judge in March 2016. Violations of Executive Order 11988 (EO 11988) are enforced by the Executive Branch, therefore the court indicated that it lacks the ability to review the Corps’ actions for violations of EO 11988.

The courts dismissal of EO 11988 claim does not indicate that violations of EO 11988 have not occurred.

5 major dam failures in the 1970’s preceded President Jimmy Carter drafting Executive Order 11988.

February 26, 1972 – Buffalo Creek Valley, West Virginia
The failure of a coal-waste impoundment at the valley’s head took 125 lives, and caused more than $400 million in damages, including destruction of over 500 homes.

June 9, 1972 – Rapid City, South Dakota
The Canyon Lake Dam failure took an undetermined number of lives (estimates range from 33 to 237). Damages, including destruction of 1,335 homes, totaled more than $60 million.

June 5, 1976 – Teton, Idaho
Eleven people perished when Teton Dam failed. The failure caused an unprecedented amount of property damage totaling more than $1 billion.

July 19-20, 1977 – Laurel Run, Pennsylvania
Laurel Run Dam failed, killing over 40 people and causing $5.3 million in damages.

November 6, 1977 – Toccoa Falls, Georgia
Kelly Barnes Dam failed, killing 39 students and college staff and causing about $2.5 million in damages.

The intent of EO 11988:

Cited Souce:
www.fema.gov  “…requires federal agencies to avoid to the extent possible the long and short-term adverse impacts associated with the occupancy and modification of flood plains and to avoid direct and indirect support of floodplain development wherever there is a practicable alternative…”  

11. The Diversion Authority and Army Corps of Engineers haven’t allowed for public input.
False or Misleading Correct Information
51 public meetings were held from 2008 to 2011 to gather input for the Federal Feasibility Study. The USACE process strategy is to keep public input “out of sync” with each phase of a project to ensure that local sponsor interests advance in an unfettered atmosphere.

The USACE went through the motions with public meeting which presented “what we are going to do” or “here is how impacts will be shifted and imposed upon others”.Public input and comments were summarily rejected without meaningful consideration.

The USACE recommends that to achieve a successful “out come”, all parties need to part of the process. All parties participated in the formation of the Sheyenne Diversion and the a successful Sheyenne Diversion was built.

ZERO (0) public meetings were held upstream prior to the USACE and/or local sponsor decision to move impact upstream.

12. The Corps made up data used to create new 100-year flood levels to make the economics work.
False or Misleading Correct Information
The 100-year flood level has changed roughly every decade in Fargo and Moorhead. The Diversion is designed to accommodate these changes. The USACE conducted an EOE (expert opinion elicitation) on September 28-29, 2009 in St Paul, MN.

Cited Source:  Appendix A1b EOE

“The Technical guide requires a Level II EOE when the specific information sought is not available from historical records, prediction methods, or literature review. Therefore, the Fargo-Moorhead EOE was a Level II EOE.”

The USACE reports relating to the proposed Fargo Dam and FM Diversion rely heavily on theoretical assumptions that have not been scientifically proven with any conventional scientific method.

Additionally, the EOE manipulated data sets into “wet” and “dry” periods to establish an augmented flood frequency curve which did not quantify and include water displacement caused by encroachment into floodways and adjacent flood plains.

These advance reports were used to move the project through the federal process and obtain approval for:

  • Civil Works Review Board
  • Chiefs Report
  • Record of Decision

The higher than actual or observed 100 and 500 year flood levels were used to distort the cost/benefit ratio in favor of the Fargo Dam and FM Diversion project.

13. Upstream residents are not against the Project, just the dam part.
False or Misleading Correct Information
The Diversion is not feasible without staging upstream. Previous alternatives showed impacts all the way to Canada without a staging area. The dam will flood almost 30,000 acres in North Dakota alone. According to the State Water Commission, more than 10,000 acres are in Richland County, where the Joint Cass Water Resource District has no jurisdiction.

According to USACE documents, the current proposed alignment VE13A will increase downstream impacts at the Drayton, ND USGS river gauge by nearly 17 inches.

USGS gage (05092000) located at Drayton, ND has a base elevation of 756.178 feet when converted to NAVD 88 datum.

The USGS recorded an April 24, 1997 peak crest of 45.55 feet at 124,000 CFS of discharge reflecting 801.728 feet at the gage.

The proposed VE13A alignment of the FMM indicates projected impacts could reach 803.14 feet, which exceeds the 1997 record crest of 801.728 feet by 1.412 feet ( 16.944 inches).

• Red River Analysis

The Diversion Authority would not need to flood upstream residents if their only goal was to provide flood protection for the city of Fargo.  The upstream devastation caused by the dam is a land grab for new development area at the  expense of upstream properties.

The USACE did not thoroughly study a combination of alternative measures, which could provide robust flood protection to Fargo without excessive impacts outside Fargo’s jurisdictional boundaries.

Cited Source: FEIS 8.4.4.1 Appendix P
Plan Formulation

“The Phase 4 analysis focused on ways to minimize the overall project impacts. This resulted in three plans being considered: the FCP as defined in Phase 3, the ND35K as defined in Phase 3, and the LPP, which is the North Dakota diversion with upstream storage and staging. The non-federal sponsors did not request any further consideration be given to those combination plans considered in section 8.4.3 of this appendix, and all remaining combinations were dropped from further consideration.”

14. The $1.78 billion project cost will double by the time it is constructed.
False or Misleading Correct Information
The cost will go up due to inflation, but many areas of cost savings have also been identified. Using a P3 to complete the project will also help reduce costs over time. You cannot save money by borrowing it.

Using current and future extended sales tax to qualify for P3 funding is fiscally irresponsible.

Future generations will be burdened with sales tax and property assessments without representation.  Each generation should have the opportunity to determine the benefit levels it wants to receive and come to a consensus on the tax levels it is willing to pay for those benefits.

Project proponents are using skewed data in an effort to justify a massive land grab for Fargo development interests under the guise of flood control.

Cited Source: CATO Institute

The Corps of Engineers performs cost-benefit analyses in order to select projects that have a high return. But the agency has often supported white elephant projects based on flawed and manipulated studies. The Corps has a pro-spending bias because it does the analyses of proposed projects that it will build itself. Authorities such as the Government Accountability Office have found that various studies by the Corps have been faulty or purposely rigged.

Other USACE Projects

Breckenridge, MN  –  93.9% over budget
└ $23m est – now $44.5m (certification issues)

Roseau, MN – 83.6% over budget
└ $24.3m est – now $44.6m (near complete)

Wahpeton, ND  –  161% over budget
└ $10m est – now $26.1m (certification issues)

Oxbow, ND  –  97% over budget
└ $64est – now $126 (certification not guaranteed)

Fargo, ND  – ??? over budget
└ $2.126 Billion est (2015 dollars)
_ └ $3.6+ Billion est (potential)

15. The Staging Area is not needed. The land immediately south of Fargo is better used as staging area.
False or Misleading Correct Information
The staging area reduces downstream impacts. Moving the staging area north impacts 60 more homes and would cost more. The natural floodplain is a staging area.

The currently  proposed alignment VE13A will increase downstream impacts at the Drayton, ND USGS river gauge by nearly 17 inches, according to USACE documentation.

Downstream and upstream impacts would be reduced if the staging area were moved north.

No new impacts would occur moving the staging area north as those properties are already flood prone.  In addition, OHB properties were deceptively removed from impact counts to skew analysis.

Properties within the OHB ring dike-levee remain negatively impacted by the Fargo Dam and FM Diversion project as a community being forced to remain within the staging reservoir footprint of the Fargo Dam.

There is no guarantee the OHB ring dike-levee will be certified and properties within the OHB ring dike-levee will be compelled to sue for recovery of financial liabilities created by the project feature, as they arise.

16. The staging area will be a dead zone with farm land out of commission and no growth allowed.
False or Misleading Correct Information
Farming will continue in the staging area because it will only be used in a flooding situation. There is a 1 in 10 chance in any year it will be needed. USACE documents state that local government services will be impacted due to a loss of tax base.   The USACE also notes that many of the existing roads in the staging area will not be maintained.

The cost of maintaining viable access for producers to their farmland has not been quantified in the project cost-benefit ratio and will exist in perpetuity.

Stating a 1 in 10 chance of use of the staging area does not mean once every 10 years.   A 10 year flood event could occur back to back.  This un-quantified financial impact could bankrupt most of the farming operations within in the staging area.

Cited Source: Civil Works Review Board
September 23rd, 2011 Testimony

Unavoidable environmental impacts would be conversion of floodplain agricultural land to floodplain forest.

No Growth – Growth Restrictions
Cited Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Policy

Owners of Flowage Easement Land May Not:

1. Construct or maintain any structure for human habitation, permanent or temporary, on the flowage easement land.

2. Place or construct any other structure or appurtenances to existing structures on the flowage easement land without prior written approval of the District Engineer. “Other structures” are construed to mean any kind of structure including but not limited to buildings, ramps, ditches, channels, dams, dikes, wells, earthen tanks, ponds, roads, utility lines, and tramways.

17. The Project includes a 50,000 acre pool or reservoir.
False or Misleading Correct Information
The staging area would only temporarily be used and only during times of extreme flooding. USACE Phase 7.2 modeling documentation provided to the North Dakota State Water Commission indicates 385,292.9 acre-feet of water within the dam reservoir, which impacts 54,730 acres (10,380 acres of the area are within Richland County).

View: Phase 7.2 Staging Area Volumes

The proposed Class 1 High Hazard Dam staging and storage reservoir immediately upstream of Fargo, ND at full capacity would contain  5.5 times  the entire normal water storage volume of Bald Hill Dam, Valley City, ND.

18. Farmers won’t be treated fairly. Farmers won’t be able to get insurance and will only get $800/acre payment.
False or Misleading Correct Information
Federal requirements will be followed to acquire the needed land rights to store water in the staging area. This includes purchase of a flowage easement based on a federal appraisal. In addition, the Diversion Authority is studying the impact on federal crop insurance, and if a supplemental program would be needed. Farmers have been told what processes will be followed to either take their land or impose water easements, that will deny future development on affected land parcels, which will last in perpetuity.

Deed restrictions permanently devalue properties within the staging area to accommodate increased property valuations to the newly “protect development area.”

Farmers were NOT included in any decisions related to the concept, location or extent of impact caused by the proposed Fargo Dam and FM Diversion project.

Farmers were NOT included in the value engineering or cost/benefit ratio portion meetings used to establish a true and accurate valuation relating to financial impacts specific to farming operations in the Red River Valley.

Crop Insurance: Issues relating crop insurance should have been resolved before the project was presented to the  Civil Works Review Board, before obtaining a Chiefs Report and before a Record of Decision was issued.

Crop insurance DOES NOT cover man-made events or un-anticipated consequences caused by operation of the Fargo Dam and FM Diversion.

The Fargo Dam and FM Diversion Authority has suggested it could self-insure for Crops Insurance, however, the matter has not been fully discussed, nor is it fiscally feasible when the current project is already under-funded.

Additionally, crop insurance costs are based upon the preceding 10 year crop yields.   Yields will be affected by operation of the Fargo Dam and FM Diversion project.   As average yields decrease,  coverage decreases and premiums increase.

Operational costs, that will exist in perpetuity, relating to debris removal, erosion, soil crusting, soil stability, loss of beneficial fungi and other microbial activity have not been accurately factored into cost estimates or proposed one time water easement payments.

19. Drainage west of alignment will back up on farm land.
False or Misleading Correct Information
The Diversion Project is designed to not negatively impact areas outside of the channel. The current project purpose is to interfere with the natural migration of water toward the river systems in and around the FM area.

Water that cannot enter the diversion channel will accumulate outside the project and potentially create overland flooding in areas not previously prone to flooding.

The USACE made all their drainage assumptions with no ice in any ditches or culverts.

Spring floods occur because of heavy snow accumulation which make normal drainage patterns impossible.

Backing up water behind a dam and diversion channel will cause impacts on streams and tributaries far beyond what has been estimated.

According to Aaron Snyder, USACE: “…you will still be able to shop at Fargo…”

Views: 4319

Comments are closed.