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E. John Carlson, Oxbow, N.D., Published May 02 2013

Letter: Did diversion supporters manipulate crest forecast?

I grew up in Fargo’s Oak Grove neighborhood in the ’60s and sandbagged floods more than I want to remember. I have been intimately involved with Fargo and area river flooding since 1994. This most recent “flood of record” projection never did realistically compute.

All anyone needed to do was talk to the farmers and old-timers up and down the valley to know that the National Weather Service flood projections were not believable. Few homeowners purchased flood insurance. FEMA was not happy. Even Mayor Dennis Walaker called 32 feet in February and then revised to between 32 feet and 35 feet after the late March snowstorm.

In newscasts, I could hear the reluctance in Walaker’s voice to go along with the National Weather Service’s inflated flood level projections. Turns out, a 33.3 foot crest was on the money.

I think that the current makeup of the National Weather Service has little long-term “boots on the ground” experience and was easily manipulated by Fargo and Cass County officials to orchestrate a “flood of record” projection that would play well for attention and diversion dollars to a North Dakota Legislature that was in session. In the words of Rahm Emanuel: “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”

I have spoken with many reasonable people who verbalized those exact impressions. I know I am not alone, as I have repeatedly heard city officials heading off all these assertions on the radio before any public accusations were made, so it is widespread. Translation: Don’t you dare question our judgment or actions!

Well, we do question, and many people now question flood actions, the diversion design, the need and the costs. There will be hell to pay for this “flood.” A flood range forecast of between 38 feet and 42 feet with a greater than 40 percent probability of exceeding 40 feet; then only to end at a meek 33.3 feet is abusive and unacceptable.

Many people have been greatly inconvenienced with unnecessary worry, time and expense. Only $2 million to fight this flood? Add $7 million to $8 million worth of new Fargo homes that were recklessly torn down with no time to move them or for Habitat for Humanity to salvage items. A million unneeded sandbags were filled because 685,000 sandbags were supposedly available from previous flood years.

For everything you do, or don’t do, there are consequences. When you shout “fire” in the theater, there better be a fire. I think the integrity of Fargo, Cass County, the Diversion Authority and the National Weather Service is shot. The mayor justifies it all with: “Ya gotta go with the weather service.”

I think it starts with Fargo instigating the weather service’s bad forecasting to create a crisis for diversion dollars. Good luck getting volunteers to fill sandbags and donating their time next time.

I think I speak the truth and will not be silenced by windy politicians and a pandering talk-show host desperate for afternoon ratings.

We are not against a diversion. We are against a dam that puts 5 feet of water on our Oxbow living-room floor or being forced to live behind a ring dike where hydrological forces will destroy our basements.