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Lloyd Omdahl, Published April 15 2012

Omdahl: Give us liberty or dikes

"We are tired of it, and we won’t take it anymore.”

Those are the sentiments of folks in the city of Oxbow, N.D., south of Fargo, who feel they are getting a raw deal in the planning for new dikes in the Fargo-Moorhead area. If the preliminary plans prevail, they will be getting wet in the next high water.

In their search for remedies, the Oxbow folks have found the law that provides for the transfer of townships between counties so they have filed petitions to move Pleasant Township from Cass County to neighboring Richland County. The issue will be on the November ballot for both counties, since the counties must approve township secessions.

While other people are worried about conflict and terrorism in Afghanistan, North Dakotans had better recognize that this explosive water fight in the valley could become a serious statewide crisis. We need to remember that the Revolutionary War was started inadvertently when some nervous jerk in the bushes fired on the Redcoats.

Why worry? First of all, people these days are ornery and contentious. We don’t take nothing from nobody anymore. And a recent survey indicated that everyone now has at least one gun. Anger and guns are a dangerous combination.

Then there is the historical fight for prominence between Burleigh and Cass counties. Remember how those Bismarckers used to sneer about “Imperial Cass.” It was mostly envy, but they claimed that Fargo was trying to run the state, which was partly true.

Cass County already brags about having had at least four governors. Jack Dalrymple makes it five. Some counties haven’t had one yet, and their prospects are pretty slim with grabby Cass in there.

Some of the more aggressive types in Bismarck may see this Pleasant Township fight as the opportunity to dismantle Cass County once and for all and may be willing to finance a fight to move Pleasant Township by force. If that should happen, Cass County would certainly adopt some kind of “stand your ground” ordinance.

The North Dakota cities that have experienced the ravages of floodwater may be willing to lend support by sending fighting units to Pleasant Township, the Devils Lake Marine Corps for one and the Souris River Naval Command for two. There is no doubt that the Oxbow people will have sympathizers around the state.

It has been reported that the owners of the 30 sections of land in western Pleasant Township want nothing to do with this secession business. They don’t want to go to Richland County. We could see a civil war break out in Pleasant Township if some jerk fires his pistol in the Barney Bar.

Right now, they are showing great restraint by waiting for the results of the November election before they move. But if the vote is to move Pleasant Township to Richland County, they plan to petition for the creation of their own new township and stay in Cass County.

Of course, Richland is an interested party in all of this. If they get Pleasant Township, it would increase the valuation of the county and lower property taxes. That would give Richland the opportunity to brag about its favorable business climate, maybe get Microsoft to move from Fargo to Lidgerwood.

I’m sure that the folks planning the dikes for Fargo would like to accommodate every threatened property up and down the Red River. If carried too far, however, that would pretty much put them in the canal business.

I wonder if anyone is selling tickets for this.


Omdahl is a former North Dakota lieutenant governor and is a retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email ndmatters@q.com