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Paul Baukol, Published September 01 2010

What exactly do compromise and cooperation really mean?

The proposed Fargo-Moorhead diversion is certainly a good option for protecting Fargo and Moorhead from flooding. Fargo and Moorhead will benefit from having a diversion in place. There is little doubt of that.

But with anything of benefit, there are sacrifices that come with it. The most immediate sacrifices to see are the homes and farms that will be in the path of the diversion. Farms that have been in families for generations will be disrupted or even displaced. Those who will find themselves on the outside of the diversion will also be faced with new challenges during flood events because the current drainage patterns will be changed.

The proponents of the diversion, specifically Fargo City Commissioner Tim Mahoney, have recently stated that they want to reach out to the downstream communities to talk about cooperation and compromise. As the downstream communities have wanted to be included from the beginning, this is a welcomed initiative. After the announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the plan will continue to move forward, I hope that this does not mean that Mahoney’s initiative will fall by the wayside. But it is hard to overlook comments from Mayor Dennis Walaker, and others, that the jobs of those who live downstream of the proposed diversion will be in jeopardy without the diversion. Not everyone who lives in the downstream communities works in Fargo, but we all will be affected by the increased crests that the diversion will generate.

Asking for compromise and cooperation implies that Fargo and Moorhead are also willing to make sacrifices so they can still have the benefit of flood protection, rather than making the insinuations that to remain employed we must sacrifice the safety of our homes and communities. It is yet to be seen whether the proponents of the diversion are really seeking compromise or merely compliance.

Others may believe that because they are not directly downstream of the proposed diversion and because they do not work in Fargo that they will be unaffected by it. In order to mitigate the effects of the diversion, there will need to be water retention projects put in place basinwide.

Fargo and Moorhead did not pursue water retention because it was deemed unfeasible. Yet it is supposed to be the solution to the consequences of building the diversion, and that sacrifice will fall on everyone.

As there is no one place that can be utilized to provide enough water retention in a single project, it will be asked of many people in many different areas to put in projects and to pay the local costs to counteract the increased river levels from the diversion. These will be on stream storage as well as in-field storage projects.

One such project that comes to mind is the proposed dam on the Wild Rice River in Twin Valley, Minn. This project has been proposed more than once. It has always been met with resistance from the people who would have had to sacrifice the most for it to be put into effect, and understandably so. Will those who have opposed this water retention project change their minds because of the importance of Fargo?

The most recent revival of this idea ended because of opposition from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources due to environmental concerns. Will the DNR turn a blind eye to the environmental concerns of the project just to provide mitigation for the proposed Fargo-Moorhead diversion? Should they?

With the proposed diversion, the sacrifices will be made by those who are not receiving the substantial benefit of the diversion.