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Published June 28, 2009, 12:00 AM

Forum editorial: Vote ‘yes’ for flood protection

There are no sound arguments against passing a half-cent Fargo sales tax to fund flood control projects. Not one. When voters go to the polls Tuesday, they should enthusiastically vote “yes.”

There are no sound arguments against passing a half-cent Fargo sales tax to fund flood control projects. Not one. When voters go to the polls Tuesday, they should enthusiastically vote “yes.”

Fargo’s experience with Red River Valley floods is overwhelming evidence that the city needs to do much more to protect its people and properties from the intensifying threat. Floods have become more frequent. River crests on the Red and its tributaries set records in every big flood. The potential for billions of dollars from flood losses is not hyperbole. In the record-crest floods of 1997 and 2009,the luck of cold snaps as rivers

were cresting prevented a Grand Forks-type disaster in Fargo and Moorhead.

The half-cent sales tax will raise Fargo’s share of flood protection funds. The local money will be used to leverage many multiples of the local tax revenue in state and federal funding. Fargo will do its share – as it should – with the expectation that a flood problem as expansive and complicated as the city faces cannot be mitigated without state and federal assistance.

The massive flood control strategy for the city and environs is a work in progress. While there are specific elements already known – the southside flood plan, for example – the final shape of the larger project will be determined when data from the 2009 flood is folded into the engineering work. As frightening as the spring flood was, the information gleaned by hydrologists, meteorologists and engineers will be vital for developing an effective permanent solution for Fargo. While there certainly is urgency in getting flood protection in place, it must be done using the best possible science and engineering because it will have to function for generations.

The cost seems daunting, but spending hundreds of millions of dollars now to prevent potential flood losses of billions of dollars later is a smart, long-term investment. And when the perennial cost associated with fighting and cleaning up after floods is factored into the flood protection equation, it is eminently prudent to make that investment. As many weary flood fighters said after this year’s campaign: “We can’t do this again and again …”

Not all taxes are equal. Some pay for wants rather than needs. A flood protection sales tax will finance a need that has been obvious for decades. The revenue raised will be targeted for one purpose only: pay for projects that will prevent the rivers from overwhelming the city.

Given what the region experienced in 1997 and 2009, the Fargo work can’t begin soon enough. A “yes” vote Tuesday will certify the city’s commitment to effective flood protection.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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