Darrell Vanyo, Published March 06 2013
Letter: The state must be on boardI have been involved in the study for flood protection for the Fargo area for nearly four years. Without exaggeration, this has been nearly a full-time job for me. Countless engineers, engineering firms and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have studied and modeled every possible solution to flood protection and the resulting necessary mitigation for each solution.
The plan that is best is the plan we are pursuing (diversion with greater in-town flows and a retention staging area) and it is the plan that is supported unanimously by the Diversion Board made up of Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo, Cass and Clay county representatives. It is critical that we continue our progress on design finalization, environmental analysis, mitigation efforts and construction in order to stay within a $1.8 billion budget.
It was only April of last year that we received the sign-off from the Secretary of the Army for the project. With the pending election in November of 2012, there was no way that we were going to see a bill passed to provide congressional authorization. Now that the new Congress is under way, we are hearing positive vibes that Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-Calif., is beginning work on the next Water Resource Development Act. We are somewhat optimistic that we may see a bill this fall or winter. Once that happens, the next step is federal funding, unless of course, funding comes with the bill.
The Diversion Authority is planning to go to D.C. to lobby for the bill and for funding. It is for this reason (and to keep our project moving) that we urge you to repeal the amendments to HB1020 which, without question, will stop four years of work dead in our tracks. Starting and stopping a project of this magnitude is the surest way to make it cost prohibitive.
The federal government has already spent nearly $50 million on home buyouts and corps work activity over the past four years. The state of North Dakota has spent approximately $37 million over that same time period. Even though
$75 million was appropriated from the last two sessions, due to the restrictions for use of funds, only half of the money has been used. I would hope that by these facts, you might see that the federal government has done more to support our project than the state has.
We need both. And that is why I urge you to strongly consider doing what I am asking. Please vote down the amendments to this bill, so that we may seek federal authorization and funding knowing that we can show congressional leaders that our project has strong state support and one of the best benefit cost ratios of any in the nation.
After four years of supporting this project, we ask that the state stay committed to the task of helping us achieve our goal of getting federal authorization and funding prior to the next legislative session.
Vanyo is chairman, Diversion Authority, and a Cass County commissioner.