Published July 14 2010
Forum editorial: To diversion protesters: Listen up!When Fargo-Moorhead metro-area officials sign a flood diversion sponsorship agreement Thursday, protesters representing downstream interests will be at Fargo City Hall to object. They say they want to be heard and a protest at the signing is one way to communicate their concerns about the project.
That’s all well and good, but their concerns are being heard. It appears downstream protesters are the ones who have not heard or have chosen not to listen. Comments are on the record from local, state and national leaders regarding potential downriver impacts of the proposed Fargo-Moorhead diversion. No city, county, state or federal official has dismissed legitimate concerns of downstream communities. Indeed, public remarks and substantive proposals in the past couple of months confirm that everything possible is being done to minimize an increase in downstream flow that might be caused by the diversion.
In case the protesters missed it:
- Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – the major federal funding source for the diversion – have said frequently that the corps will not approve a project that causes significant harm.
- Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said city sponsors have talked about downstream mitigation since planning began. “We know something’s got to be done,” he said.
- Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has been more than clear about his determination to protect downstream cities and farms. He’s working with congressional colleagues on both sides of the Red River to use the new farm bill to fund an ambitious retention program that could hold back enough water to reduce the spring crest on the Red and its tributaries, subsequently reducing downstream effects of the diversion. If all goes as Peterson envisions, retention will be in place before the diversion is operational.
- Project sponsors have said again and again that while downstream cities won’t have full representation on the joint-powers board, they likely will be members of the technical advisory board.
The notion that downstream interests will be washed away to accommodate Fargo-Moorhead’s priorities doesn’t square with the facts. Some folks downstream – as represented by the Red River Downstream Impact Work Group (see Diane Ista’s commentary at right) – charge that decisions are being made behind closed doors. Not true. Meetings have been open and thoroughly reported by print and broadcast media. The protesters want the project to be slowed down. Bad idea. Once approved, the project in all its aspects will take nearly a decade to complete. How many floods will the region experience in the coming decade? Should the major population center in the valley wait longer? Fifteen years? Twenty?
The diversion project for the cities and complementary retention to protect downstream communities must move ahead in tandem. That’s the plan. It’s a good one.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.