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Forum editorial: Governor should speak out

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple should speak up forcefully against Minnesota’s opposition to the Fargo-Moorhead diversion. His reason for not using his authority and credibility – that the matter is in litigation – makes no sense in light of an attempt by an agency of Minnesota state government to interfere in a flood control project that is wholly on the North Dakota side of the Red River. A lawsuit brought by opponents of the project in both states should have no bearing on inappropriate moves against the diversion by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Minnesota has not stepped up with funding for the diversion. The state is unlikely to do so, although there is no doubt the diversion would protect Moorhead in the event of a catastrophic flood on the Red. Gov. Mark Dayton has bought into the DNR’s fact-starved fiction that the project will cause harm to Minnesotans, and therefore the governor has opted for parochial political expediency rather than enlightened regional leadership.

It is curious that the Dalrymple administration is so timid about these developments. When did it become OK for an obviously hostile agency of Minnesota state government to exercise its power in North Dakota? When did it become OK for Dayton to extend the jurisdiction of an agency over which he allegedly has control into a neighboring state?

And more to the point: When did it become acceptable for the governor of that neighboring state to stand down when his state’s priorities are attacked?

Through a spokesman, Dalrymple said he’s not taking on Minnesota for at least three reasons. First, the diversion’s primary sponsor is the local Diversion Authority and that body should be working with opponents to find resolutions and compromises. Second, the diversion is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project, and the corps has a lead role in advancing the work. And third, the pending litigation.

All true, but all beside the point. The state of Minnesota has jumped into the diversion debate with both bureaucratic feet, going so far as to seek standing in the lawsuit, and going even further with Dayton’s endorsement of the DNR’s incursion into North Dakota.

No one doubts Dalrymple’s support for the diversion. He understands the need for the project. His administration is working behind the scenes to advance the work and at the same time help deal with opponents’ concerns. But the arrogant overreach by the state of Minnesota is a different animal, and merits a strong response from the state of North Dakota. Dalrymple should challenge the bully.

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

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