Forum Communications cites the permanent flood protection provided by the Sheyenne Diversion as a factor contributing to the healthy growth of West Fargo, N.D. And that is probably the case.
But not all diversions look alike. The successful diversion around West Fargo and Horace, N.D., is quite a different animal than the complicated engineering experiment that is the proposed Fargo Diversion. Furthermore, the Sheyenne Diversion does its job of protecting West Fargo without flooding 50,000 acres of prime farmland, as would the proposed Fargo Diversion.
Likewise, not all flood control planning processes look alike. The Kindred Dam was authorized by Congress in 1968 — but the dam was not funded because of strong and well-organized opposition by upstream farmers and ranchers as well as by a wide spectrum of regional residents and scientists, who raised economic, social and environmental concerns about a large dam in the North Dakota Sandhills.
Seeing an impasse created by the vocal opposition to the project, the Lake Agassiz Regional Council and the Corps of Engineers threw out the one-sided planning committee put together by downstream interests in favor of an advisory council that had equal representation from downstream proponents and upstream opponents.
After several years of meetings, fact-finding and a systematic public exploration of alternatives, the Corps decided the Kindred Dam was not feasible. The dam was de-authorized in the mid-1980s in favor of the diversion, which was completed in 1992.
Some of the very people who were involved in the decisions on the Sheyenne Diversion are the ones who now, as North Dakota state legislators, will vote on state funding of the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion plan.
So, it took 25 years and a long process of agitation against the project, capped by a cooperative process that included the people who would be hurt by the dam, before there was a solution to West Fargo’s flooding problems.
Now, Fargo Diversion proponents have squandered millions of dollars and years of planning on a project that may not be authorized by Congress, let alone funded. They refuse to give those who would have to sacrifice for the project any voice in the decision.
Currently, the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion project has gone back to be reviewed with a new environmental impact statement with the process to be completed sometime in 2014. And even then, approval from Minnesota and the federal government is in question.
The current plan still does not address the concerns of those impacted.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” West Fargo water leaders had dreamed of the Kindred Dam for many years. If they had invited opponents into the planning process earlier, the area’s flooding problems might have been addressed more quickly.
Fast-forward to the present: will the Diversion Authority’s unwillingness to give weight to the alternative voices make the people of Fargo wait 25 years for a solution? And how many millions of dollars will be washed from the pockets of Fargo taxpayers into the coffers of the lobbyists, the Corps of Engineers and other operatives before the right thing is done?
We firmly believe and are actively working to achieve a process that involves all parties at the table as equals in the task of finding a solution to the valleywide issues. When this occurs, there will be a solution — and we hope sooner rather than later.