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Reps. Ron Guggisberg, Scot Kelsh, Kathy Hogan, Steve Zaiser, Ben Hanson, Ed Gruchalla, Josh Boschee, Rick Holman and Gail Mooney, Published March 05 2013

Letter: Remove language in bill that threatens diversion

We urge the North Dakota Senate to remove language from the State Water Commission budget that would prohibit the use of state funding for the buyout of homes and aspects of flood protection associated with the F-M diversion project. The language also limits flood protection funding at

$325 million.

Flood protection in the F-M metropolitan area is the key to the economic growth, security and future of our communities.

Based on the language of the amendments, which reflect the public position of the sponsor, it would appear that protection to the 42.5-foot level is sufficient. In fact, protection to the 100-year level of 42.5 feet is the bare minimum of flood protection.

Swamp F-M

By itself, this plan would also require a ring dike around the city and force unprecedented flows through town. If there ever was a plan to dam water south of Fargo, a diking-only plan is the surest way to accomplish that task. To be clear, a 500-year flood (recently experienced in other North Dakota communities) would result in a 46.7-foot flood stage and swamp the F-M, West Fargo metropolitan area. In fact, a 250-year event would have nearly the same result.

The diversion and its components were selected because they provide increased flows both through and around the F-M, West Fargo area and will result in water staged south of Fargo for less time than would otherwise be the case. Staging of water (often referred to as a dam) is necessary simply for timing purposes so that the diversion doesn’t cause greater damage and higher stages downstream of Fargo. Changing the timing, followed by higher flows through and around the city, makes sense.

Diversion support

Based on the vote to approve the State Water Commission budget and the fact that the amendment sponsor was from Fargo, senators might come to the conclusion that there is near unanimity within Fargo to oppose the diversion project. We write to assure you that is not the case. The majority of public officials and private business concerns in the

F-M area know the risks of flooding and the importance of the diversion project.

Furthermore, we agree with the need of a diversion due to the Red River exceeding flood stage every year since 1993; that without permanent protection the valley could potentially lose $14 billion in property value, 103,000 jobs, $4.3 billion in annual wages, and $200 million in tax revenues; and the proposed diversion would protect 1 in 5 North Dakotans.

‘Best solution’

Furthermore, we agree with the FMWF Chamber in that it “supports the construction of a diversion as the best solution to reduce the flood risk in the metropolitan area and provide protection of lives, property and economic opportunity.” We wholeheartedly agree. We also agree with the chamber’s position, “supporting the allocation of financial resources for the construction and maintenance of the diversion project from all available local, state and federal partners.”

Since 2009, federal funding for flood protection has totaled more than

$50 million in Cass County, while North Dakota has contributed about

$37 million. Fargo representatives have been told federal authorization will be forthcoming in the next two years. Moreover, the diversion received 20 percent of the total federal funding for design from President Barack Obama for 2013.

Ranked high

And, the diversion project is ranked by the Army Corps of Engineers as the second-highest project of importance of the 12 projects that have received approval from the secretary of the Army. We certainly appreciate the allocation of funding to help with both the Red River Flood Protection and Water Supply Project, however, these amendments blocking spending toward a diversion or ring dikes put the project in grave danger. The path to federal funding for the diversion is under way and the amendments attached to HB 1020 would send a message that the state of North Dakota is not interested in being part of the project.

Again, we urge the Senate to remove the amendments to HB 1020 and allow Cass County to continue its progress toward comprehensive flood relief.

The writers are Fargo/Cass County Dem-DFL representatives in the North Dakota House.