Ryan Bakken, Forum Communications Co., Published August 27 2010
Peterson: No stopping diversion
The $1 billion, spent over 10 years, would be used for various methods of water retention, he told several audiences, including county, township and city elected officials at East Grand Forks City Hall.
Peterson said building dikes higher “is a waste of money and time,” adding that he’s “given up” on building big dams. He said his plan also would help rural properties, not just the cities that qualify for federal help, because of the cost-benefit formula in use.
Instead, the money would go to 400 to 500 smaller projects that would hold back water during the spring runoff. His goal is to annually store 1 million acre-feet of water.
Before he could pitch his plan, he needed to allay fears that the F-M diversion would create major flooding problems in the northern valley. “Under the law, the corps can’t build a project that puts more water on other people. It won’t happen,” he said.
But he added that there’s no stopping the diversion, either. “Fargo is too big of a political force. It will happen,” he said.
As chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, he seemed confident he could get a $50 million annual contribution to the project, which would be in next year’s farm bill. The two states and watershed districts perhaps would need to contribute the matching $500 million over 10 years under his plan.
As Exhibit A in his plan, he held up the water retention project that, combined with a diversion, has stopped flooding in Warren.
A dynamic part of his plan would be to “tile the entire Red River Valley.” Farmers would be offered low-interest loans to place drain tile to hold the water underground. He said tiling experiments have doubled field yields.
More water could be retained, he said, by:
- Draining wetlands in the fall.
- Keeping lake levels high in the spring.
- Using a scaled-down version of the waffle plan.
“If we can store 1 million acre-feet, there would be no effect from the diversion anywhere in the Red River Valley,” he said. “We’d make the biggest dent in water issues we’ve ever made.
“This stuff is not cheap. But it’s cheaper than a flood.”
Bakken writes for the Grand Forks Herald