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Dave Olson, Published December 13 2012

Oxbow to get ring dike if city wants it

FARGO – If residents of the Oxbow area decide they want a ring dike that will protect against a 500-year flood, they will get it, whether or not a proposed diversion channel is ever authorized.

That’s the upshot of a vote taken Thursday by members of the Flood Diversion Authority, who said they want to make clear they are sensitive to the “limbo status” Oxbow residents find themselves in.

Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof called the vote encouraging and said he was confident “we could get some things worked out,” referring to a set of conditions Oxbow has said it wants met before it agrees to a ring dike.

The Oxbow area, which includes the communities of Bakke and Hickson, is in the staging area of a flood diversion project, meaning the area would be used to store water during times when a diversion is operating.

If communities or individual property owners forego a ring dike, an option remaining would be buyouts that follow federal timelines, which currently anticipate no buyouts before 2018.

Oxbow’s conditions for accepting a ring dike include a demand for an improved community golf course clubhouse, parking area, driving and practice ranges and pool facility.

Another condition calls for the community golf course to be redesigned and constructed to make sure at least 18 holes will be protected within a levee.

Nyhof said the initial response from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Diversion Authority regarding the golf course conditions are encouraging.

A community meeting for the Oxbow area is set for 6 p.m. on Jan. 8 in Bennett Elementary School at 2000 58th Ave. S., Fargo.

Meetings will also be scheduled with individual landowners.

Those gatherings will run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 in the Hickson Community Center.

According to tentative figures discussed at Thursday’s meeting, a complete buyout of the Oxbow area would cost about $63 million.

If a ring dike is opted for, construction of the dike would cost about $25 million, while the cost of buying out homes to make room for the dike and other associated expenses would be another $25 million.

Also Thursday, the board authorized that a letter be sent to the Kindred School District stating that the authority will not be sending the district a check for revenues the district claims it lost as a result of devaluation of properties in Oxbow due to the proposed $1.8 billion diversion project.

The school district figures the loss at $73,000, according to a fact sheet prepared by Diversion Authority officials, who maintain the School District did not, in fact, see any revenue reduction in 2012.

Diversion Authority officials say that while property owners in Oxbow will pay less in property taxes, property owners elsewhere in the district will pay more to offset the lower taxes in Oxbow.

The Diversion Authority fact sheet put it this way: “The Kindred Public School District is not out any tax dollars, it is instead a redistribution of the tax burden.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555