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Roger Minch, Published March 14 2010

Basin authority is the right option

The Forum’s March 2 editorial stressing the need for a basin-wide authority to build and fund a comprehensive flood control program is spot on. No “collection of turf-protecting water districts” and other local bodies can be trusted to get the job done quickly, if ever.

For example, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District has recently had three of its orders vacated in the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Its appointed chairman for 30 years admitted under oath that the orders were done to quickly take land without having to pay for it. Its attorneys had warned that a condemnation action would probably be needed.

We all have a short window in 2010 to get a federally funded project approved while Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., is in office. The best bet will be to propose the project with the best cost-benefit ratio that can be fully supported by the Army Corps of Engineers.

After that, funding will be uncertain, there will be great delay and we will be competing with other national water projects having cost-benefit ratios many times that of any Red River diversion.

Like national defense and national highway building, this problem can only be addressed on a comprehensive federal scale.

Failing that, we can look forward to years of political battles, litigation and hit-and-miss sandbagging efforts until the 1997 Grand Forks disaster is repeated here in Fargo-Moorhead.

The concern of the corps that it might not be able to properly build a diversion across the four North Dakota tributaries of the Red River should not be overlooked. The extra cost would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the necessary structures would have to be built in the flood plain, they would require perpetual maintenance and, if they failed at the wrong time, might create their own disasters.