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Published January 31 2013

Forum editorial: Flawed bill is a shot at diversion

A bill in the North Dakota Legislature that would make establishing flood control water holding areas more difficult, if not impossible, should be unceremoniously scuttled. It is a transparent attempt to derail the proposed Red River Diversion, a flood control project that is vital to the future of Fargo and its environs.

Senate Bill 2300 would raise the threshold of approval for retention projects to 60 percent of affected landowners, up from 50 percent plus. Local and state water managers from the Red River Valley to the Badlands are lined up against the change. The bill is a special interest scheme cooked up by a few landowners and homeowners south of Fargo, but its effects would be far-reaching and negative. In practice, it would all but eliminate water control initiatives in any part of the state that require water retention features.

And therein lurks the irony of the proposal. Many of the same people pushing the bill want diversion sponsors to develop upstream water retention as long as retention is not in their neighborhood. The anti-diversion bill would stymie projects diversion foes say they favor. Supporters of SB 2300 insist they are not anti-diversion. Their actions, however, suggest they are being less than truthful about their aims.

Finally, it must be noted that among sponsors of the bill are two legislators who allegedly represent Cass County, including the expanding slice of suburban Fargo and West Fargo in District 22. It’s no surprise lawmakers from Wahpeton and Richland County are co-sponsors. Anti-diversion feelings are strong there. But when Rep. Wes Belter, R-Fargo (District 22) and Sen. Gary Lee, R-Casselton (District 22) sign on to anti-diversion legislation, they are dismissing the obvious and ongoing threat of urban flooding in Fargo, and discounting the overwhelming pro-diversion sentiments of voters of Cass County.

That’s something to keep in mind next time their names are on the ballot.

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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.