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FM Diversion and Dam Increases national debt

Part 4: Exposing Fargo Moorhead (FMDA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

Fargo Dam and FM Diversion - Tim Mahoney, Fargo Mayor

Continued from:
Part 1 – Exposing the FMDA and USACE
Part 2 – Exposing the FMDA and USACE
Part 3 – Exposing the FMDA and USACE

Little more than a week ago, US District Court Chief Judge John R. Tunheim handed down a “Cease and Desist” order halting all construction work on the Fargo-Moorhead Flood Risk Management Project (“Project”) until further order of the Court.

This is not ambiguous.., in fact it is rather clear. It does not mean that Fargo’s various “for hire” attorney firms are allowed to interpret, scheme and encourage further work ~ calling it something else.

Imperial Fargo and Imperial Cass have a long history of arrogance and defiance that flies in the face of moral decision making and governance. That being said, the three most common questions being asked are:

1) How in the world did this get this far?
2) How did the taxpayers let them spend all this money?
3) Who is going to be held accountable?

It can be a vexing question. “How in the world did this get this far?”

Every journey has a beginning, however, there was never a cannon, starter pistol or alarm to signal the start of Fargo’s land grab. Fargo’s growth and expansion into the natural flood plain is a tedious process of incrementalism, cronyism and irresponsible choices that resulted in a “cease and desist” order for the FMDA (Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority) project. Nevertheless, the encroachment into the natural flood plain displaced significant water, changed the behavior of the Red River and compelled FEMA to remap the region and raise the 100 year base flood elevation – bringing mandatory flood insurance requirements for thousands of property owners.

The baffling move by the FMDA, Fargo and Cass county is the CLOMR Support Document that is trying to compel FEMA to utilize a non-factual 100 year flood basis, augmented by several feet, with nearly 18.5 percent more CFS (cubic feet per second) discharge than the FACTUAL 100 year flood level as determined by FEMA to establish flood risk assessment.

Now, the population of the entire metro area is faced with the dilemma of finding a solution that addresses the damage already done to the natural flood plain in addition to the overstated flood risk being lobbied by the USACE; and the decision making buffoons in Fargo and Cass county continue to grant building permits into high flood risk areas at a staggering rate ~ which repeats the cycle of madness.

Let’s step into the time machine and consider these excerpts:

June 14, 2009 – Political Obstacles
Dave Roepke – Fargo Forum

“Political Obstacles: A Contentious Consensus Possible”
Cited Source Excerpt from Report
Jeff Volk, CEO
Moore Engineering
“If the challenge is we have to convince everyone in that community, it’s impossible. They need to be leaders. They need to be able to stand up and say I believe this project will not harm us, and say it with authority,”

 
A brilliant move by Volk, whose firm (Moore) has collaborated with an industry and market competitor (Houston) on approved contracts in excess of $37 million as of July 31, 2017.

Get the “leaders” on board and the purse strings are held less tightly…

What a boon for all the involved engineering firms and contractors ~ with approved contracts approaching $250 million, thus far.

March 6, 2014 – Fargo Forum
“Fargo Approves Flood Proofing Policy for New Construction”

By Erik Burgess
Out of the 2,230 vacant lots currently in Fargo, 1,323 would need to flood-proof under the new policy, said City Engineer April Walker.

Because of the overhaul, some homeowners with flood insurance policies are seeing their insurance rates skyrocket from $430 a year to $3,235 a year as they move closer to actuary rates, Walker said.

Current FEMA standards require the lowest opening on a flood-proofed home to be one foot above the Base Flood Elevation. The current BFE in Fargo is about 38.5 feet, but that’s expected to go up to 39.4 feet starting Jan. 1, 2015, Walker said.

In the future, it could go up to about 41 feet, a figure derived from the metro’s flood diversion studies, she said. At 39.4 feet, there would be about 2,300 existing structures that would be in the floodplain in Fargo, Walker said. At 41 feet, that number shoots up to 19,400.

 

So about the erroneous claim “this project will not harm us”…?

The very idea of “This Project” fosters Tier 1 and Tier 2 development (read more…) into the last natural flood plain upstream of Fargo, which provides a vital buffer to flooding in the metro area.

Why on earth would a city continue encroachment into the very flood plain that they’ve indicated would call for flood proofing of 1,323 parcels – when driving that development will create an even greater flood risk to nearly 20,000 property owners – if/when FEMA remaps and quantifies Fargo’s irresponsible development into high flood risk areas?

As for the attempt to generate fear over flood insurance premiums…, let’s look at the facts.

As of June 30, 2017 FEMA.gov – NFIP Policy Statisics

Area Policy Count Avg Premium
USA 4,950,560 711.16
Minnesota 9,511 875.17
North Dakota 10,755 652.03



Minnesota 9,511 875.17
Clay County 541 587.01
Moorhead 275 505.46



North Dakota 10,755 652.03
Cass County 4,263 590.25
Fargo 3,551 522.04

 

Fargo and Moorhead have policy premiums lower than the national, state and county levels. Yet, the mayors both past and present have used FEMA flood insurance as a scare tactic along with all of the usual suspects and talking heads within the FMDA, county and city commissions.

It is a disingenuous argument to assert that ALL property owners would experience a flood insurance premiums in the thousands.

It is EXTREMELY DECEPTIVE to suggest that FEMA will remove flood insurance requirements downstream of a Class 1 High Hazard Dam. Especially when a heavy rainfall event presents a greater risk of unanticipated flash flooding and the the FMDA project provides ZERO protection against.

Will Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams ever get a clue and herald the benefits of the internal flood protection constructed since 2009.

Based on policy statistics available via FEMA.gov – flood insurance policies enforce in Moorhead, MN have dropped from 428 in Feb 2016 to 275 in June 2017 – a reduction of 35.8 percent. It appears that the floodwalls, dikes and levees provide a significant benefit to Moorhead residents.

It would be impolite to say where Mayor Del Rae Williams can place the 820 flood insurance policies she’s been peddling as fear… It is truly unfortunate that she cannot comprehend she’s being played the fool for Fargo’s benefit.

Special Hearing – May 27, 2009 – Fargo, ND
Committee on Appropriations – US Senate
Cited Source Excerpt from Report
Fargo Mayor
Dennis Walaker
As I get long in the tooth, I have watched FEMA grow. Back in 1975, 1978, 1979, FEMA was a depository for people that couldn’t get another Federal job, okay? They had no skills. The laws were almost obscure.

The rules—and that is the way they wanted it. As far as I was concerned, that is the way they wanted it.

 

Was Mayor Walaker really a hero? That is a matter of debate, however, the temerity it takes to suggest that FEMA is dumping ground for incompetent people displays the arrogance and bully tactics that earned Fargo the term “IMPERIAL”.

This is the same Mayor Walaker that threatened FMDA project opponents with being named on the front page of the Forum during the Jan 2012 State of the Cities event.

“If it fails, I don’t think anyone wants to go on the front page of The Forum as I point fingers at the people that basically stopped this project. That’s a warning, as far as I’m concerned.” – Dennis Walaker
(View Source: Fargo Forum | KVRR )

 

Walaker’s apparent lack of respect for FEMA illustrates the arrogance and mindset of how proponents disregarded warnings from FEMA (Read more…) to limit encroachment into the natural flood plain and adjacent floodways. Development that increases flood risk to existing properties that the Fargo Dam and Diversion cannot address.

Valley News Live – Dec 02, 2016
Fargo Mayor, City Commissioner at Odds Over Recent Discussion
Tim Mahoney
Fargo Mayor
“Gehrig doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

“I was very disappointed. He was late (to the meeting) because that’s not at all what we said. When we said the code words we’re flood proofing, it costs more money, 4 thousand to 6 thousand, the assumption on his part was that you’re building in a flood plain,” Mahoney said. “No, we’re building where we have developing lots and they have to bring it to the proper levels so they don’t have to get flood insurance.”

 

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Click for Large View

Oh.., you mean those “2,230 vacant lots currently in Fargo, 1,323 would need to flood-proof” according to former Fargo city Engineer April Walker?

Y’Know, those same lots that will be affected by the CLOMR request submitted to FEMA with incorrect discharge that was manipulated in the EOE.

Bullying commissioners, neighboring cities and politician may be all well in good in the bubble Mahoney lives in ~ but using Fargo letter-head to influence major businesses (Read more…) on the DPAC assessment ballot offers a glimpse of Mahoney’s core values.

Rather than focusing on completing internal flood protection for the city that exists, Mahoney and his cronies fixate on an alleged solution, that is always 6-10 years down the road, and denigrate anyone that questions any aspect of the FMDA project as “misunderstanding the process”.

Please explain the “process” of how Oxbow, ND wrangled a brand new private golf course out of Fargo taxpayers, when the Oxbow Country Club was valued by Cass County around $1.3 million but received a check for around $10.5 million?

Please explain the “process” of how the Oxbow, ND ring-levee-dike was touted as a $65 million project, now at $107 million, on the way to the USACE new estimate of $126 million and a very high probability of going much higher?

Please explain to Fargo voters why Oxbow buyouts averaged over 350 percent, when Fargo property owners received much less.

Please explain how spending Fargo tax dollars at Oxbow, ND provides flood protection to Fargo property owners?

Special Hearing – May 27, 2009 – Fargo, ND
Committee on Appropriations – US Senate
Cited Source Excerpt from Report
Fargo Mayor
Dennis Walaker
As you know, the spring of 2009 presented the citizens of Fargo-Moorhead and Cass and Clay Counties with a tremendous challenge, a record flood event. It seems like we are experiencing a record flood every 5 years.

Attachment A of this testimony reveals that the past 50 years of flooding in Fargo-Moorhead, it shows that 2009 with a 100-year event or greater.

 

Isn’t that interesting… 2009 was a 100 year flood event or greater, but Jeff Volk (Moore Engineering) wanted leaders to stand up and proclaim “I believe this project will not harm us, and say it with authority,” but Senator Byron Dorgan was able to pry an admission out of Colonel Jon Christensen (USACE) (read more…) that the cost/benefit analysis was augmented by 4 feet. Yet, only a few months later “miraculously” the 2009 flood event was downgraded to around a 50 year flood event. All the while the EOE (Expert Opinion Elicitation) utilized false discharge sets to create a wet period to fit the USACE agenda.

The same can be said for the false discharge data (read more…) used during the EOE that overstates the river conditions by 22.81 percent in Fargo. An asinine move by the FMDA and USACE, who are lobbying FEMA with in their CLOMR request, to establish a false benchmark that creates a greater risk assessment relating to flood insurance requirements ~ in want of a project that does not come with a guarantee that FEMA flood insurance would not still be required.

May 27, 2009 – Political Obstacles
Fargo Forum

Committee on Appropriations – US Senate
Cited Source Excerpt from Report
Fargo Mayor
Dennis Walaker
…there’s a window of opportunity in the wake of a big flood…
…the length of the goodwill honeymoon at six months…

 

Isn’t it interesting that within six months of (the late) Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker uttering words about the “goodwill honeymoon” ~ that the EOE was conducted and the unreliable “results” conveniently became the foundation of the proposed FMDA project after Walaker made this eerily prophetic statement.

Special Hearing – May 27, 2009 – Fargo, ND
Committee on Appropriations – US Senate
Cited Source Excerpt from Report
Fargo Mayor
Dennis Walaker
And if we are going to debate this in the forum—and we are not going to do that, right, Collin [Peterson], because that accomplishes nothing. We need to allow the Corps of Engineers to do their process. Now it doesn’t sound like a diversion is going to work anyway, and maybe you guys are absolutely right. We don’t need anybody to drive a divisive separation of the river. We need to cooperate.

 

Here we are now, almost 8.5 years later and Kevin Campbell (Clay County Commission) and Del Rae Williams (Moorhead Mayor) still persist in defying state law and ignore the significant flood protection that Moorhead already has in place.

Doesn’t Moorhead and Clay County deserve leadership that will foster growth in Minnesota, as opposed to ushering away economic prosperity ~ instead of being used as a gullible tool and writing letters to benefit Fargo’s development agenda.

Click for Large View

Click for Large View

Click for Large View

Click for Large View

 

Remember what the GAO (General Accountability Office) said in their testimony from 2006:

“…planning studies conducted by the Corps were fraught with errors, mistakes, and miscalculations, and used invalid assumptions… …the Corps’ studies understated costs and overstated benefits, and therefore did not provide a reasonable basis for decision-making….”

 

“How in the world did this get this far?” ~ With incompetent leadership selling a development project disguised as flood control.

More to come in Part 5.

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2 Responses to “ Part 4: Exposing Fargo Moorhead (FMDA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) ”

  1. What I find bafflingly is that probably 90 percent of the residents in Fargo don’t have a clue about anything going on with the diversion I constantly have to explain the no Fargo Dam decal on my vehicle, I guy should rent a billboard on 13th Ave , saying fmdam.org read the truth about the FM diversion.

  2. Marcus very good job as usual. I agree with Jon K. We should take out billboard and also send article out to all news papers through out state. List some names of the leaders from Bismark who made the Oxbow boondoggle possible. I will start with then Senator Tony Grinberg and also Drew Wriggley. They were up to their necks in trying to push this agenda/plan. To enrich a few while sticking it to those of us on the losing side. Who do mean when I say the losers. Mainly the N.D. taxpayers and those of us who were going to lose land, farms, all for the greater good? When our group went to Bismark and testified in front of his committee we told them Minnesota was against plan. Not going to pay the one hundred million dollars the Fargo DA was saying they were ok with. That federal government did not have the money either. Then Senator Grinberg was chair of the dog and pony show that was the hearing. He made statement that I was disrespectful. That they are Senators and that I am just a common taxpayer and average Joe. To that I say the proof is in the pudding. I have no respect for Mr. Grinberg as a man or a leader. He allowed some to enrich themselves of the backs of us so called average Joe’s. His friends are laughing all the way to the bank. While all the rest of us are there to clean up this mess. To try and now make lemonade out of a bunch of spoiled lemons. Maybe some of his rich oil buddies will help make up for his poor judgement that has cost this state millions. I’m sure those in Oxbow think the world of this man. Why not! They increased their balance sheets without doing anything, but complaining they were in limbo. What about everyone else south of said project that were and still are in limbo. These so called leaders need to be held accountable. Tony Grinberg and Drew Wriggley are no longer in Bismark to face the music. They must have seen the writing on the wall some years after the hearing.

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