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Forum editorial: Marquart wrong on ring dikes

Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, is one of the best legislators to ever come from northwestern Minnesota. He knows his stuff and usually represents his constituents well. But his newly minted position on the Fargo-Moorhead diversion is a blunder of some consequence. His linking of support for the project to ring dike construction on the North Dakota side of the Red River suggests political pander, not enlightened leadership.

Marquart said last week he would lobby against the project if ring dike construction around Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke – upstream of Fargo-Moorhead – continues. Consider his position. He did not say he might not support the project. He said he would lobby against it. That extreme stance is an overreaction. It indicates he has dismissed the long-term benefits that permanent flood protection will provide for the F-M metro.

E First, the ring dike project will proceed whether or not the diversion goes ahead. The ring dike work is tangentially related to the larger project but is not dependent on it. The need for flood protection for those small communities, Oxbow in particular, has been clear for decades. Support there for the dikes is strong, with the exception of a few strident voices that get more attention than they deserve.

E Second, diversion doubters, including members of the Moorhead City Council, and now, apparently Marquart, are using completion of a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources environmental impact statement on the diversion as a weak hook upon which to hang their reasons for being tentative about the diversion. It’s a ploy. The DNR has conceded it has no jurisdiction over a North Dakota project, and certainly has no veto power over the ring dike work.

E Third, the economic success of Dilworth, Moorhead and cities within the metro’s sphere, such as Barnesville, Minn., and Casselton, N.D., would not be happening without Fargo’s urban vitality and economic growth. A devastating flood in Fargo would cripple not only the city but also outlying communities that depend on Fargo for everything from jobs and medical care to entertainment and education to retailing and transportation. In that obvious regard, permanent flood protection is a regional priority.

Marquart’s parochialism is disappointing. He’s sacrificed his once-mature understanding of the larger cross-river community on an altar of myopic political expediency. He ought to rethink it.

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

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