Moorhead’s leaders have all but finished constructing the city’s permanent flood protection. Permanent dikes and flood walls now protect Moorhead to a flood of 42 feet without resorting to emergency measures. The biggest flood in recorded history was only 40.8 feet.

Despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars of state tax funds from the North Dakota Legislature with the express direction that the money be used to complete Fargo internal flood protection, Fargo’s leaders have refused to protect their city in the same way as Moorhead. Mayor Tim Mahoney and Commissioner Mary Scherling recently confirmed that they are “deferring” further work on Fargo’s flood walls and delaying planned repairs to the city’s lift stations. Fargo’s lift stations are essential to protect the city from frequent summer floods caused by rain events. Mahoney and Scherling are instead “moving pieces around” due to a funding shortfall. Translation: Fargo’s internal protections are being neglected to funnel tax dollars to the F-M Diversion project.

To date, Fargo’s leaders have sunk $500 million dollars into diversion lawyers, engineers, public relations firms, a private golf course, and 40 buyouts of top-end Oxbow homes that were not in the flood plain and already protected by a permanent dike built with Cass County tax dollars. Fargo’s internal protections could have been fully completed years ago at a fraction of this cost.

Why would city leaders neglect essential city protections to divert tax dollars into a project that is without permits or funding and is and will be tied up in litigation extending into the foreseeable future? “Because it’s a cult,” said one Fargo official. The F-M Diversion is a cult.

Rogne wrote this piece with other members of the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority editorial team.