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FM Diversion and Dam Increases national debt

Response to Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof

OHB Ring Dike

The Oxbow Hickson Bakke Ring Dike Levee project is a proposed 65-70 million dollar feature of the Fargo Dam and FM Diversion that would allow intentional population of flood waters in the proposed man made staging reservoir around the communities of Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke, ND.

There is no other city or combination of communities in Minnesota or North Dakota where an intentional project design feature would allow for periodic staging of water, for an indeterminate amount of time, to exist around a residential or commercial area within a staging reservoir.

In a recent opinion piece submitted by Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof, a curious pro-diversion / pro-ring-dike-levee slant has been attempted in a bizarre bid to sway any borderline onlookers regarding the Oxbow ring levee.

Here is the article with commentary:

Let’s look at the editorial:

Letter: After years of work, Oxbow’s ring levee plan is ready to go
By: Jim Nyhof, INFORUM

Jim Nyhof: There has been a lot of talk about the ring levee around Oxbow, N.D. There have been questions and statements made about flood protection and history of Oxbow and what involvement with and impact there is with regard to Minnesota.

I want it to be clear that the city has been an active participant in securing funding for the ring levee, and in making sure Oxbow residents have the best flood protection in the Red River Valley.


Nobody can fault a community for taking responsible measures to protect a city that exists and to safeguard as many residents and structures as possible. Post 2009, Oxbow worked diligently to complete a ring-dike that provides protection up to 917 feet.

Jim Nyhof: The residents of Oxbow are anxiously awaiting the start of construction of the ring levee, which is set to begin in 2014. Oxbow residents have been active in the process and are aware of what the project means for them. They understand that the project is 100 percent funded by North Dakota sources.


Jim, try and be a little less fast and loose with the facts. While there are undoubtedly residents of Oxbow that view the ring-dike as a short-term solution to a long term problem, the issues of living behind a ring-dike creates new problems and costs that never previously existed.

The mere fact that early design plans intend to eliminate natural drainage along the north side, cite “allowable overtopping” of the levee and have set the 100 year (6.25 inches) and 500 year (8.5 inches) rainfall event lower than the 2013 24hr rain event producing 9 inches of rain in and around Wolverton, MN suggest there are internal flooding risks that you are not conveying to your city residents.

Currently, Bakke and Hickson property owners have no ring-dike-levee maintenance costs because we’ve never flooded.  However, post construction maintenance and repairs and potential for internal flooding will exist in perpetuity.

Jim Nyhof: Voters in Cass County, including Oxbow residents, approved a sales tax increase to fund flood protection projects around the county. Cass County has funded several projects like Oxbow’s in Argusville, Mapleton and Casselton. All of these projects have their own independent utility and reduce the flood risk to the residents of the county.


Voters went to polls under the premise of an entirely different project.  Not the current dam and diversion alignment or the wholesale destruction of property values imposed by the proposed features.  Again, the upstream impacts were known by local leaders and the Corps of Engineers but withheld from the media and Cass county voters until after the election.

Ironically, your Argusville, Mapleton and Casselton examples are not a necessary components of the Fargo Dam and FM Diversion. Those projects provide independent utility as a result of natural overland flooding.  Whereas, the Oxbow Hickson Bakke ring-dike exists solely to stage a water volume equivalent to or greater than the Bald Hill dam reservoir, at some indeterminate date in the future, around the commmunities of Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke, against the majority impacted property owners.

It’s also curious that voters can go to the polls and pass an ambiguous resolution to raise tax funds but be denied a specific vote on how, where and why those tax dollars are being used.

Jim Nyhof: In addition to funding from local sales tax, I and others spent a great deal of time last spring in Bismarck before legislative committees to request funding for a ring levee for Oxbow. It took a lot of effort, but in the end the state made its intent clear and was generous in appropriating funds to protect Oxbow.


Funding promises obtained with massaged information, in a rather a misleading manner.

The Summary of Survey Results as of January 25th, 2013 actually includes 133 respondents out of the approximate 170 households within the proposed Oxbow Hickson Bakke ring-dike area. Of the 76 Oxbow respondents, 24 Oxbow property owner respondents (32 percent) said that would leave the area.

Combine the 24 Oxbow respondents that wish to leave and the 57 respondents from Bakke Hickson summary that either want a buyout or NO ring levee, suggests that 81 (61 percent) of the responding residents want NOTHING TO DO with the proposed ring-dike.

Generally speaking, it’s pretty hard to believe that ND lawmakers would have found 61 percent in opposition to the ring-dike-levee as a favorable condition to move forward with the proposed state funding. Especially, when the state funding was to be focused on flood control projects for Fargo…, not a brand new golf course for Oxbow and relocation of property owners placed in the proverbial cross-hairs by the Fargo Diversion Authority.

Jim Nyhof: We are aware of flood protection planning by our neighbors to the north, but we also have our own needs and desires that should be considered. When building flood protection for our community, we should build it with forward thinking so that specifications will be complementary to what else is happening in the valley. Our ring levee must be built to highest standards so that flood protection will remain as robust as possible, regardless of whether the diversion project around Fargo-Moorhead is constructed.


“Our neighbors to the North” being Fargo, which has irresponsibly encroached into the flood plain for decades, has created the bulk of its own flooding problems.  Irresponsible flood plain encroachment has increased the flood threat over 25 inches since 1969 and Fargo’s attempt to encroach further severely impacts surrounding property valuations, which includes homes in Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke.

However, to summarily prejudice a project with another proposed unfunded project in an attempt to justify its ability to compliment something that may never come to be…, is fiscal foolishness. There is only one reason that the proposed Oxbow Hickson Bakke ring-dike-levee would need to be constructed, which relates directly to Fargo’s aggressive land grab into the last natural flood plain and relocation of those water impacts onto communities and farming operations upstream.

There would be absolutely NO REASON or independent utility to construct a ring-dike-levee around Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke to an elevation of 926.2 feet (approx 4 feet lower than the proposed height of the Fargo Dam and FM Diversion) without the proposed Fargo Dam and FM Diversion…, and the MN DNR is smart enough to understand that fundamental fact.

Jim Nyhof: The residents of Oxbow have been through years of stress and uncertainty. We now see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have an agreement from the state and county, home sales have rebounded with gusto and our residents can plan their lives again. I implore our neighbors to the east to consider our residents and not let our flood protection plans prejudice the work they need to do.

Nyhof is mayor of Oxbow, N.D.


Jim, I don’t disagree that Oxbow residents have been through years of stress and uncertainty. However, suggesting that the burden created by Fargo, Cass County and the Diversion Authority is unique to Oxbow is rather self serving.

The entire population of Pleasant Township has endured stress and uncertainty created by Fargo, Cass County and Oxbow. When you step back further from a self-centered Oxbow viewpoint, several communities downstream have been through years of stress and uncertainty as well.

It’s good that the Bank of North Dakota has made limited funding up to $300,000 possible, however, it still leaves the un-answered question of valuation in limbo when appraisers find themselves “out of their depth” due to the artificial conditions created by Fargo, Cass County and the Diversion Authority project.

Whether or not the “…home sales have rebounded with gusto..”, in your words, has actually occurred is a point of contention. It would seem reasonable that the 24 property owners that indicated their desire to leave, in the January 25th, 2013 Summary of Survey Results, would be actively trying to market their properties if home sale conditions had improved as greatly as was embellished.

Could it be that new primary loans, existing purchase and home refinance criteria do not view the Oxbow Hickson Bakke area with the same optimism?

I encourage our Minnesota neighbors and the MN DNR to consider how foolish the proposed Oxbow Hickson Bakke ring-dike-levee is and the artificial conditions caused by the Fargo Dam and FM Diversion which fostered its proposal.

Fargo needs to finish its internal flood protections, stop encroachment into the last natural flood plain and go back to drawing board to find sensible flood protection…, rather than the “rocky” road it’s on.

Marcus Larson
OHB Ring Dike Design Team – Bakke Representative


Views: 185

One Response to “ Response to Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof ”

  1. Marcus,
    Thank you for your very concise and articulate response to the previous article by Jim Nyhoff.

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