Letter: Instead of a bridge, we're getting a ditch to nowhere

Pointing out patterns
Diane Ista, manager of the Wild Rice Watershed District, points out an area in Minnesota where landowners tell her flooding patterns are different from what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map shows before a corps meeting in Hendrum in 2010. Heidi Shaffer / The Forum

There was a bridge to nowhere and it looks like we will have a ditch to nowhere.

First of all, my compliments to the city of Fargo for the flood protection they are providing for their residents and businesses. The funds provided by the North Dakota Legislature in the past few years are being used responsibly.

Second, when the assessment vote was taken by the chosen few, we were promised that this assessment would never be levied against any residents and businesses in Fargo, but was needed only for collateral to assure the Public Private Partnership that Fargo would have adequate funds to pay their share of the construction of the diversion channel and associated infrastructure. Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney told the North Dakota Appropriations Committee, "If we don't have the money from the sales tax, we will have to trigger the tax assessment district." The AE2S representative way back when this was proposed stated that they would be very transparent in announcing who the Private Partnership would be. Please, let us all know who that company is, not an LLC or some other structure off of the responsible partner. Where are they located? In the U.S. or a foreign country? What interest rate have they been promised? What happens if the interest rate goes up? Is this the responsibility of Fargo residents? Since Fargo residents are committed to 60 years of payments, what will be the response of the next generation? Is there an escrow account set up to pay for the maintenance into perpetuity?


Permits—a representative of the U.S. Army Corps informed me when I asked her if the DNR wouldn't approve a permit what is the next step to begin the diversion. My recollection was that she stated the Corps could still proceed. I was told that the project is designed to be built and designed in small increments as there is no master construction plan for the entire diversion. My understanding that the DNR will permit only a completed design ready for construction. Does that mean the DNR needs to permit each segment as it is ready for construction?
The Minnesota Water Law states that water cannot be drained downstream or upstream if the water can cause damage. It seems the success of the F-M Diversion relies on draining flood water on Richland, Clay and Wilkin counties. It doesn't seem possible that the DNR would permit a project that is in violation of Minnesota law. The DNR seems to be opposed to permitting dams in Minnesota since their decisions have turned down other dams that have been presented to them from a mediation committee. It would set a precedent if that diversion dam was approved. It seems then other dam permits will be requested.


As stated by former Gov. Ed Schafer , he is supportive of having a diversion, but he disapproves of how the project is being handled. "The current effort is being steamrolled with no interest in the Diversion Authority to consider alternatives, develop cost reductions or upstream communities' loss of productive land, tax bases and even cemeteries."

We all saw the flooding that goes on all over the Red River Valley. The $3 to $4 billion proposed for the diversion invested in the entire valley would assist Fargo and all of their neighbors up and down the valley. The Red River Basin Commission has already developed a 20% reduction on the tributaries which would reduce the flooding for everyone in the valley. This should be revisted in a cooperative manner as suggested by Schafer.

Ista, Fargo, is the former manager of the Minnesota Wild Rice Watershed District.

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