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Timothy Fox, Published June 26 2012

Joint powers group opposes Fargo flood project – the ‘dam’

Both Wilkin County, Minn., and Richland County, N.D., continue to unequivocally oppose the Fargo “dam” (diversion) to the extent that it impacts our counties.

Mark Voxland, mayor of Moorhead, and officials from Fargo have made it clear that Fargo-Moorhead is protecting for a 500-year flood. The Army Corps of Engineers denies this assertion. The official corps “code phrase” is “constructing to have the ability to protect to a 500-year flood event.”

My reading of the flood hazard mitigation grants are for protection for a 100-year flood, not a 500-year flood. I would argue that any grant request including planning, design, engineering or construction that exceeds the 100-year flood elevation be denied. In particular, it would be extremely offensive that Minnesota tax dollars be used to plan, design and construct protection for the future expansion of Fargo at the expense of northern Wilkin County. The intended use of the “dam” is to protect to any level, without a planned release of water, regardless of the extent of damage upstream.

In the same tone, it is understood that flood protection is needed for Moorhead as well as Fargo. There are better solutions that have been ignored, primarily because it may restrict Fargo expanding to the south. Those plans include “retention areas” that would benefit the entire Red River Basin, or taking the original corps plan and moving the “dam” north. I would suggest 52nd Street South in Fargo. In the past, that is where Fargo has successfully placed a temporary levee.

As a Minnesota taxpayer, Minnesota Flood Hazard Mitigation Grant funds were not intended to be Fargo development funds for flood-prone areas south of Fargo. This would include the funneling of those funds through Moorhead to Fargo.

I have not even touched on the technical flaws and adverse environmental impacts of the project.

Wilkin County and Richland County have established and entered into a Joint Powers Agreement to organize and direct a challenge to the construction of a dam on the Wild Rice and the Red rivers. In addition to Wilkin and Richland counties, there are currently 27 political entities from Minnesota and North Dakota that are members of the Joint Powers Agreement.

Fox, Breckenridge, Minn., is Wilkin County attorney.