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Craig Whitney, Published March 04 2013

Letter: A new voice for flood protection

The Chamber, in conjunction with the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp., is establishing a Business Leaders Taskforce for Permanent Flood Protection. This group, led by Tom Dawson of Dawson Insurance and Ann McConn of Alerus Financial, will consist of high-level business leaders in our communities who recognize the absolute importance of permanent flood protection.

To date, the business community has largely been absent from the discussion, and it is clear that can no longer be the case. We applaud the work our elected officials have done along with the Corps of Engineers and other experts. Our group will not be a rubber stamp for the diversion authority or elected officials but rather an outspoken voice for the importance of permanent flood protection.

Time and time again, we have heard this project is needed but given the country’s financial deficit, it will never happen. We are well aware of the federal budget situation, but we should not forget that the federal government has contributed significant resources to this project. In fact, of all the projects considered in the United States last year, our diversion received a third of the total funds available to design future projects. While the federal government is, and should be, making cuts, investing proactively in infrastructure is the smart thing to do. We know discussions on appropriations are taking place in the United States Senate. The federal government has not given up on this project, nor should we.

We cannot, and will not, stand for any one person or group trying to derail this effort. After 3.5 years of study and planning, now is the time to work together. We must and will do everything in our power to see that the Fargo Moorhead area is protected.

Let us never forget: We’ve lost lives. We’ve lost homes. We saw our sick and elderly evacuated and relocated. We saw our schools and students disrupted spring after spring to fight the waters we know will come again. We’ve seen our neighbors to the north spend the past decade rebuilding their community. We’ve seen the unexpected wreak havoc and devastation in Minot. We’ve seen our projected flood risk change, literally overnight, from 5 percent to 79 percent. Not doing what needs to be done, to protect the region from what we KNOW will come, is completely irresponsible, and we refuse to accept substandard protection.

Yes, the price tag is large and the project is complicated, but we cannot forget the price that’s already been paid and what we stand to lose.

Whitney is president/CEO of The Chamber.