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FM Diversion and Dam Increases national debt

Why is the North Dakota diversion channel the selected plan, when the Minnesota diversion channel would have been cheaper?

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Q&A - Fargo Moorhead Dam and FM Diversion

Fargo and Cass County ND officials, influenced the Diversion Board of Authority to adopt a ND based diversion despite the more cost effective alternatives presented by the USACE (United States Army Corps of Engineers).

Fargo and Cass County ND officials, collaborated with key influential players and developers to foster the dissemination of information in support of Fargo’s flood protection goals.

Excerpt from Fargo Forum (document),
June 14th, 2009 – author Dave Roepke: 

Few people in the region have more experience trying to accomplish that than Jeff Volk, CEO and president of West Fargo-based Moore Engineering. Volk’s firm shepherded the West Fargo diversion project and the recently built Maple River Dam through the approval process, two projects that limited the effects of the 2009 flooding. A veteran of public-input meetings, he knows there’s no way to get every last farmer, riverside resident or taxpaying homeowner to sign off on a project. That’s why local officials have to buy in to any plan, he said. “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,” Volk said.

As Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker has pointed out, there’s a window of opportunity in the wake of a big flood. Speaking at the flood summit in Washington, D.C., he put the length of the goodwill honeymoon at six months.

Fargo’s greatest fear is that common sense and details will overcome the hearts and mind of “public sentiment” over the Fargo Moorhead Dam and Diversion as opposed to fear, passion and “the end justifies the means” approach.

Excerpt from Star Tribune,
February 1, 2010 – Associated Press:

“I’ve been asked over and over again to endorse the North Dakota diversion,” Walaker said. “If the numbers stay where they’re at, I will endorse the North Dakota diversion.”

$1.30 billion – Feb 2010 estimated MN project cost.
$2.04 billion – Current estimated ND project cost (with interest during construction).

$740 million cost increase from Feb 2010 to Sept 2011. (19 months)

Excerpt from Minnesota Public Radio News,
February 1, 2010 – author Dan Gunderson:

The Corps says the six options on the table meet federal cost-benefit standards. Corps Project Manager Craig Evans says the Minnesota diversions are the best bang for the buck. “The Minnesota plans are more efficient, they’re more cost effective, and probably more implementable,” said Evans. But the choice isn’t that simple. The local leaders (Fargo & Cass County) favor the North Dakota diversion because it protects a larger area. But it’s also more expensive and has greater environmental impact.

Excerpt Minnesota Public Radio News,
October 19th, 2009 – author Dan Gunderson:

The Corps of Engineers analyzed several diversion plans of different sizes. The smallest one would cost about $1 billion. Corps Project Manager Craig Evans said, “had that diversion been in place during the record flood last March, the millions of sandbags and emergency dikes would not have been needed.”

Evans said local officials now need to choose which plan they want the Corps to pursue; levees, a North Dakota diversion, or a Minnesota diversion.

“The other question that goes with any of these plans is: what is the level of protection you’re after?” Evans said. “With a diversion, how big a diversion do you want? Recognizing that the local groups will have to pay more to get a larger plan than whatever we determine is the optimal federal plan.”

At this critical juncture, Fargo and Cass County officials made a decision based on Minnesota’s faltering economy to press for a more expensive North Dakota based diversion and orchestrate a plan to compel all taxpayers visiting or living in the metro area to pay more for superfluous protection beyond what was initially presented by the USACE as adequate and effective flood protection.

During tense Joint Powers Agreement discussions between Fargo and Moorhead, Moorhead and Clay County MN officials found themselves faced with the possibility of being sued for project costs if Moorhead and Clay County MN didn’t continue supporting the Fargo Moorhead Dam and Diversion. Nancy Otto (MN), openly expressed concerns in Diversion Authority meetings, over the postulated wording in the Joint Powers Agreement, drafted largely for the benefit of Fargo and Cass County ND.

JPA Download (original location)
JPA Download (alternate location)

Despite the project cost escalating by nearly double to $1.8 billion dollars (now $2.04+ billion), Moorhead and Clay County, MN reluctantly agreed to move forward with the project that uses a 261 square mile footprint to protect an entire metro area footprint of 88.64 square miles.

The USACE lost control of the project and allowed the non-federal sponsors to dictate policy, which violates EO 11988, to ensure millions in project generated revenue for the USACE machine.  The current alignment was selected to protect Fargo’s future economic development. The presented LPP design increases overall impacts to the floodplain and the environment, while at the same time, increasing costs.

In attempt to put positive spin back on the proposed project, now out of control, the USACE, Fargo and Cass County official have attempted to convince taxpayers that the alignment was to keep water out of the relatively small Rose Creek floodplain – citing overland water flows, which is in direct violation of EO 11988.

Fargo and Cass County ND officials are attempting to manipulate federal funding that would allow a ND based Dam and Diversion. Fargo, ND would directly benefit from federal funding and would allow elite residential and commercial developers access to vulnerable floodplain areas in and around Fargo, ND. This increased development will contribute to the deterioration of the natural floodplain and substantially increase financial risk to the region relating to structural failure of the Fargo Dam and Diversion.

The current LPP violates EO 1988
and negatively impacts the following floodplains:

Red River floodplain
Wild Rice River floodplain
Rose Creek floodplain
Sheyenne River floodplain
Maple River floodplain
Lower Rush River floodplain
Upper Rush River floodplain


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