Leaders of Oxbow, ND are pointing fingers at the wrong persons and agencies relating to U.S. District Court injunction handed down by Judge Tunheim.
The injunction order IS NOT the cause of strife. It is an affirmation that the Fargo Diversion Authority used governmental overreach and collusion to begin work prematurely on the OHB (Oxbow, Hickson, Bakke) ring dike-levee, prior to Minnesota completing its required state EIS.
The MN EIS, part of the MN DNR process, has always been a requirement and was always going to be done. An agreement was made between the Fargo Diversion Authority, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the MN DNR, for the MN EIS to begin after the Corps conducted its EIS and subsequent changes.
The Chiefs Report, filed December 19, 2011 requires that this Fargo Dam and FM Diversion project must:
“Comply with all applicable Federal and State laws and regulations,…”
Which includes the obtaining of required state permits from MN, and which may not be issued prior to the Minnesota DNR completing its state Environmental Impact Statement.
However, Oxbow’s plight of “being in limbo” didn’t begin with the MN DNR or the injunction order handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Tunheim.
Any state of “being in limbo” was created solely by an earlier version of the Fargo Diversion Authority, in 2010, when they moved impacts of the proposed Fargo Dam and FM Diversion upstream of Fargo soon after the passage of the Cass County sale tax to fund flood control projects.
The state of “being in limbo” was the result of a conscious and aggressive decision by Fargo and Cass leaders to reach beyond Fargo’s jurisdictional boundaries and foster encroachment into the last natural flood plain south of Fargo. By moving those impacts onto the communities of Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke ( including area rural home and farming operations) a “black cloud of uncertainty” created an equal plight for all property owners located in the proposed staging area.
Albeit, the properties under the proposed alignment may feel like they are on a “unique” roller-coaster. However, they bought into a “bill of goods”, expected a payday, and now that payday has been placed on hold. Keep in mind…, every single property owner within the OHB project area is affected by the same project and is no more at an alleged risk than they were prior to the OHB project being rolled out. Regardless, none of the OHB property owners should get preferential treatment over another to further a project that should not have commenced prior to Minnesota completing its environmental impact statement.
What is the “real” risk?
A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “White Paper” indicated the Oxbow, Hickson, Bakke area experienced hydrology during the 2009 flood, 167 percent greater than the FEMA 100 year flood base flood elevation. Since the 2009 flood, all homes east of the Oxbow clubhouse were bought out and removed. During 2010-2012, considerable dike and levee work shored up the cities defenses to withstand an event greater than 2009 event, requiring only a few temporary measures.
So what is this “plight” that Mayor Jim Nyhof is talking about? It appears rather contradictory to this letter: Mayor Jim Nyhof, in a January 26th, 2011 letter to Terry Birkenstock – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – St. Paul district, where he sings the praises of Oxbow’s near 500 year flood protection.
Of course those plainly written words have now been twisted into “certifiable” 100 year protection for a community where over 95 percent of the homes exist ABOVE the 100 year FEMA base flood elevation. Isn’t it curious that most homes in the OHB area ARE NOT REQUIRED to purchase FEMA flood insurance (because they exist above the FEMA 100 year base flood elevation), yet the public relations message is that Oxbow is flood prone…?
So again, what is this alleged “plight” that Mayor Jim Nyhof is talking about?
Oxbow is a beautiful little community with paved streets and a fully operational golf course. By comparison, neighboring Bakke has around 57 homes on gravel roads, where eight homes have bought and sold over the past two years. Clearly, any adverse plight alleged to exist in Oxbow is a result of its city leadership and public relations message.
Excerpt from June 7th, 2015 Fargo Forum article:
“Mayor Jim Nyhof, who regularly talks about his city’s plight at service clubs, alluded to his difficulty gaining sympathy. “People always ask me the question: ‘Why should we feel sorry for people in Oxbow? They’re getting a brand new home.’ You’re forgetting the part where they’re taking their homes first.”
It appears that Mayor Jim Nyhof has ignored the fact that EVERY property owner in the staging area had their homes taken in 2010, when impacts of the proposed Fargo Dam and FM Diversion were moved upstream of Fargo to foster development encroachment of the last natural floodplain, which is in turn, causing the impacts associated to the plight.
Further complicating the process is the creation of 95 pages of restrictive covenants and zoning requirements tied to Oxbow’s new development area. Many residents under the proposed ring-levee-dike will have to realize an appreciation in valuation to meet the new building requirements or settle for less home as a result of their forced relocation.
There is no such thing as a free lunch! Property tax valuation has yet to be determined for OHB home relocation’s and Fargo/Cass taxpayers get to foot the bill for any “appreciation in value” as a result of new zoning requirements, which are inconsistent with the existing homes in Oxbow, causing concern for some residents if the new restrictions will be retroactively imposed on the older homes.
City Council member DJ Reiger is out to lunch on whether or not custom builders will “return next year” due to legal uncertainties. While there may not be government contracts tied to the OHB project…, there most certainly can be private contracts with the same paper trail found in any new development. The question is, will savvy homebuyer/builders be interested in dealing with 95 pages of restrictive covenants and zoning requirements…, or simply move onto a more inviting, less restrictive environment?
Perhaps the most ironic point in all the hub-bub over the OHB ring-levee-dike is the mere fact that it is completely unnecessary if the overall Fargo Dam and FM Diversion isn’t constructed.
The OHB project provides ZERO flood protection benefit to the city of Fargo.
How would you feel if you were a property owner in Oxbow, knowing that if you had been handed a check for your buyout your “state of limbo” would have been over…
It all comes down to weighing ones choices. The Fargo Diversion Authority and Cass County took that choice away from property owners upstream. They decided to relocate water from the natural flood plain, for their land grab, onto others. The original plan for residents of Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke…, this meant the entire community and surrounding area was to be wiped out.
At the very least, with a check in hand, an affected property owner can make a remarkably simply choice; either stay, or leave. However, the “powers that be” are beset on “control” obstructing the entire process, then they blame the wrong entities for their own incompetence.
Oxbow leaders could have avoided all of these headaches had they, or the Fargo Diversion Authority etal; simply handed a check to the property owners under the proposed ring-levee-dike and let them hire contractors directly. However, that would have given those property owners an unfettered opportunity to take their money and leave. Instead, the process of “control” via the Oxbow Jobs Development Authority, Cass County Joint Water Resource District and the Fargo Diversion Authority provides clear affirmation of whom the guilty parties are that are hampering construction of home relocations tied to the OHB project and subsequent injunction.
Isn’t it interesting that the Oxbow County Club received a wire transfer for $10.499 million on January 21st, 2015…, but Oxbow city leaders did nothing to ensure homeowners under the proposed ring-levee-dike receive the same courtesy…