Guest Post: Fargo Needs Flood Protection, But Not A Blank Check

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Bags ‘O Money.

That’s what it takes to build a $2 billion dollar diversion. Bags ‘O Bags ‘O Money. The question is who will pay? After successful prodding by the Fargo Mayor, voters last spring approved an extension of a half cent sales tax. That means Fargo residents will only have to pay 60% of additional financing for the dam and ditch. We kind, out of town folks, who drop our coins in the business tills of the city, pay the other 40%. But that will not be enough money. The diversion finance committee is now saying, after the sales tax vote, they need the Water Resource District to create special assessment districts. That’s timing.

The Upstream Resistance predicted a year ago that special assessments will have to be steep to cover the cost. If the project is to be paid off in the 20 year length of the original sales tax measures, everyone on the North Dakota side within the diversion, may have to pay over 100 mills to get protection. That includes West Fargo and Horace. Remember that those two communities, as well as a large part of southwest Fargo, are protected to the 100 year flood level by the Sheyenne Diversion, and 100 years is all anyone gets from the Fargo plan. They need more money.

At a recent diversion meeting, it was discussed that this project should be financed over a longer period. More generations should have the opportunity to pay for it. Extend payments to 40 or maybe 60 years. “Borrow it Forward,” that’s how the Federal Government does it. Fargo asked the North Dakota Congressional delegation to get $30 million dollars allocated in President Obama’s budget for continued work by the Army Corps. They got $5 million and the Corps said they could live with that.

But wait, Fargo decided to “accelerate” $17 million in payments to the project, to make up for the lack of federal funding. At a North Dakota Legislative hearing in Fargo last spring, diversion financial representatives raised the possibility that the Federal Government may not be able to come up with its $844 million share of the $2 billion dollar project. So who exactly will pay the Bags ‘O Money for this behemoth.

You will. The State of North Dakota is the only source of funds that can bail out Fargo. Project planners originally asked for $300 million.

The legislature has allocated $75 million. The likely request will need to be almost $600 million or the project will not be built as planned. Minnesota has protected their side of the river with levees above the 100 year level. It’s unlikely they’ll kick in anything. Representatives of the Richland Wilkin Joint Powers Authority have asked that any money allocated to flood protection in Fargo not include a dam and reservoir. Residents of Richland and southern Cass Counties, shouldn’t have to pay for their own demise.

Fargo needs flood protection, but not an open checkbook that puts state taxpayers on the hook for unknown hundreds of millions of dollars.

Remember, all this money is for the ‘estimated’ cost. Corps projects in this neck of the woods don’t have a history of making budget. It’s not just Bags ‘O Money, it’s going to be Bags ‘O Bags ‘O Money.

Marcus Larson, born in Roseau, MN has lived in MN, ND and SD until returning to the Fargo/Moorhead area where he studied Industrial Technology, Engineering, Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Mass Communications with an emphasis in Broadcast Journalism and Integrated Ad & PR at Moorhead State University. He resides in Bakke, ND, with his wife, Debra, and two boys. He is a frank speaking property rights advocate and is active in community affairs as well as MNDak Upstream Coalition and the Richland Wilkin JPA.

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  • Game

    I think what Fargo needs is leadership, that will put forward a plan to protect the city, even if it means pissing people off. They have spent too long trying to come up with a plan that will hurt the least amount of people. Here is the thing, flood protection is going to cost money, and it is going to kick some people off their land. It may kick off some farmers, it may kick off some rich homes. Deal with it. Leadership sometimes means having to do he hard things.

    Then when they are done, they can teach the same lesson to Minot.

    • Ed

      I say we just deal with flood protection for Fargo – which can be done at a fraction of the cost. This plan is a multi-billion dollar boondoggle necessary only because Fargo wants state and federal tax money to subsidize private development of the flood plain south of town.

      • Game

        Like I said, they are too worried about pissing off some people who are developing land than they are about flood protection.

    • Marcus

      Game,

      It does not sound like you are advocating leadership…, it appears you are suggesting despotism.

      The “at all costs” kick whomever off their land “deal with it” behavior is tantamount to tyranny where persecution is whitewashed as the “greater good” and applauded by fools.

      You are correct, Fargo needs new leadership that is sensitive to the ramifications of its actions.

      Fargo would have been much closer to permanent flood protection had they been open, honest and included impacted property owners in the decision process.

      Fargo leaders have a glaring deficiency…

      They believe they are “entitled” to land 6-7 miles from the city limits rather than respectfully observing the rights of individual in the decision process.

      Lynn Bergman has used the correct idiom and labeled the current diversion plan as a “white elephant.”

  • Lynn Bergman

    I am a registered engineer with extensive experience in hydrology. The diversion plan is a white elephant. A plan similar to that employed in Grand Forks (widen the over bank by eliminating existing buildings/development that are too close to the river) would cost one fourth the cost of the diversion. Why is Fargo so willing to be hoodwinked by business owners along the Red river that have political clout?

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