Guest Post: Fargo Attempting To Bribe Oxbow Into Conceding To Flood Diverson

1997 Flood South of Fargo Viewing North Along I-29

The future of House Bill 1020 was the subject of the testimony heard before the North Dakota Senate Appropriations Subcommittee in Bismarck last Friday. Two weeks ago, on February 27, the North Dakota House voted 90 to 4 to prohibit Fargo and its Diversion Authority from using state appropriated tax funds on the 2 billion dollar Fargo dam/diversion project. Representative Skarphol, who introduced the bill, stated that the restrictions on the funds were necessary as it appeared that the funds earlier appropriated were being “spent in a fashion that was thought not to be entirely appropriate.”

As to Fargo’s plan to dam and divert the area’s rivers Skarphol said: “Your House Appropriations Committee does not believe it is in the best interests of the state of North Dakota to spend additional dollars on a project that may or may not go forward.” ND House Floor, February 27, 2013.

Last Friday delegates from Fargo appeared before the ND Senate Subcommittee to try to undo the House’s work. Representatives of the upstream communities in harm’s way of the proposed dam and reservoir also testified. Perhaps the most interesting testimony came from Dennis Biewer, Pleasant Township Supervisor and Bakke leader, who spoke against the project.

At issue was the state funds Fargo and its Diversion Authority will spend to ring dike the private golf club community of Oxbow that has approximately 100 houses. Oxbow already has a ring dike, and very few of its homes are in the regulatory flood plain. After the ’09 flood Oxbow protected itself, with the help of public funds, to a level one foot above the greatest flood in history. The majority of homes in Oxbow are not required to have flood insurance. If successful in getting the Senate to remove the restrictions, Fargo will spend at least 65 million of these appropriated tax dollars, not on flood protection for Fargo, but on an unnecessary ring dike and “wish list” for Oxbow.

These state tax dollars will be used to acquire land upon which to build six new holes on the private golf course, modify the existing holes, build a brand new club house complex and swimming pool, acquire additional acreage for building lots, and pay the cost of design, platting and infrastructure.

The Oxbow Mayor and his people have specifically demanded that the Fargo Diversion Authority pay the cost of retaining the renowned golf course designer Robert Trent Jones, Jr. to direct the construction. Fargo’s plan to spend 65 million state dollars to purchase Oxbow’s silence certainly validates Representative Skarphol’s concerns.

During his testimony Dennis Biewer was asked why his community didn’t take a leaf from Oxbow’s book and create their own “wish list” to present to Fargo. Biewer’s response was clear: we don’t flood, we have never flooded and we don’t need a ring dike. A ring dike is only necessary as a component to Fargo’s plan to remove the natural flood plain in Fargo’s future growth area, flooding 50,000 acres behind a dam that puts six to eight feet of water on Bakke, Hickson and the farmers and residents of Pleasant Township. The people of Bakke will support their neighbors, their township, their school and their community – all threatened by Fargo’s plans. Oxbow supports its country club – and so will every North Dakota taxpayer – if the amendments to House Bill 1020 are removed.

Perry Miller is a lifelong resident of North Dakota. He grew up on a farm in Richland County. He is a graduate of NDSCS in Wahpeton, and North Dakota State University in Fargo. Perry is a small business owner with commercial interests in both western and eastern North Dakota. He is married with three children, two sons who attend NDSU and a daughter in high school. His wife Denise grew up in Sheridan County, ND. A former township supervisor, Perry is serving his third term as a Richland County commissioner. He is Chairman of the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority, and political organization set up to defend against the flooding of Richland and Wilkin Counties that will result from Fargo’s plan to dam the Wild Rice and Red Rivers, creating a 50,000 acre reservoir south of the FM area. The Richland Wilkin JPA membership includes over 35 political entities including 3 counties, 16 townships, 10 cities, and 2 school districts from southeastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.

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  • Roy_Bean

    It all comes down to a mistake made over 100 years ago when they put universities in Fargo and Grand Forks. That has been the driving force in the growth of these 2 cities. A simple solution would be to cap the growth of UND and NDSU and move their programs to less crowded and flood prone areas.

    • Thresherman

      It is a mistake to assume that the colleges are the driving force in the rate of growth in Fargo and Grand Forks, they are are a component of it to be sure but hardly the major factor. The housing market collapsed with the onset of the recession here in Fargo, yet NDSU continued to grow and expand during that time. If your point were true that the college was the driving force in growth, that never would have happened.

  • Thresherman

    Fargo likes to call it flood prevention, but there really is no such thing, all they are doing is pushing their problem onto someone else and wanting to use their state tax dollars to do it.

  • John_Wayne_American

    The FM diversion problem in a nutshell…

    Fargo without the diversion is landlocked, either move the airport and lagoons to build on the north side, or build a dike wall around the south side to allow development on a floodplain that is feet below the homes along the river that they/we will be buying out to build a levy along the river.

    This diking the river and around the south end of town creates the “new” old problem of displaced water, which floods those downstream (or north of town)

    So Fargo knows that the levy alone is not enough to keep the new lots (and 1/2 of all the current lots south of the interstate) off the required flood plain insurance plan. Which also is the reason West Fargo is having such a building & school boom, it has protected land, to build homes, that young families seem to demand.

    West Fargo will soon run out of land, Moorhead will see fewer homes built there due to ND’s soon to be much lower taxes, and Fargo is as mentioned currently landlocked due to flood insurance.

    Hence the need for a diversion. the sticker price is astronomical for ND, but not for other regions. look at some of the overpasses and bridges in the big cities and you will see multi billion dollar projects its just they spread the costs out to hide them from Congress.

    Is it a huge project? Yep very large, yet much smaller than the Mclusky canal, which was never finish as promised by our Federal Gov. so folks here once bitten are a bit reluctant to pluck down 900 million state and local dollars on the “promise” of a federal administration that currently looks on ND and its Right leaning oil producing self- sufficient voters with disdain and venom.

    It will take 30 sections of land off the tax rolls, but make 60 sections flood free and very valuable which side of the ditch you own land, makes or tells me which way you want this thing to go.

    of course everyone wants somebody else to pay for the expected 3.5 Billion dollar price, (the 2.8 Billion is a pipe dream)

    The folks south of town are on the outside, so they fight it. When the folks on the inside find out what its going to cost, they will fight it also.

    Is the diversion necessary? probably,

    should the new land being protected be assessed to help pay for it? You bet your sweet assessment!

    And the reason they haven’t given out a per lot assessment price yet, is they know they need it, (the diversion) but the Fargo city Commission, being a bunch of leftest progressives, don’t have the balls to tell the Fargo landowners what its going to cost.

    that’s the rub isn’t it?


    • John_Wayne_American

      a quick look at the map the roughly 60 sections equals 38,400 acres or 153,600 quarter acres, times 10,000 dollars per quarter acre lot and you have 1.53 Billion dollars. that is half the price tag

      Of course that is all the land, roads airport etc. so those would be paid for with sales tax and other taxes. leaving every home owner around a $10K bill. which for those looking at a 2400 per year flood ins bill a bargain after 4 years. the rest? yikes they will squeel.


  • Ernie

    Rep. Skarphol was spot on to try to reign in Fargo’s spending on the unnecessary dam/diversion. I would like to see some Senator ask Fargo to produce the “wish-lists” Oxbow has presented – as well as Fargo’s response. Rumor has it Fargo has already retained this designer golf course architect. Would be nice to see his statement from his last custom job. So the ND taxpayor will know just what this small group of private country club people are getting for OUR tax dollars.