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Published October 26 2013

Forum editorial: Diversion remains on track

The Fargo-Moorhead diversion got another boost last week when the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved water projects legislation that authorizes the local flood protection project. It was another one of those “hurdles” the diversion had to clear.

Despite raucous opposition that tends to parse and manipulate elements of the project to fit an agenda, the diversion has cleared every hurdle from the start. Despite attempts by project foes to characterize the plan as some sort of Fargo land grab, the agencies and experts responsible for critically analyzing the project have universally concluded it’s the best and only way to guarantee permanent flood protection for the largest regional urban center between Minneapolis and Spokane.

It really is that simple. When the fog of self-serving mischaracterization is cleared away, the efficacy and projected cost-effectiveness of the diversion cannot be honestly assailed. After years of assessing dozens of flood control options for Fargo-Moorhead, clear-headed thinkers rightly determined a diversion in concert with internal city flood protections is the only way to go. Fargo and Moorhead have spent millions of dollars on the internal work (levees, buyouts, etc.) since the flood of 1997.

Authorization does not mean appropriation. The appropriations process likely will be more difficult because the nation is dealing with a serious deficit. Nevertheless, the water projects legislation that cleared the House and Senate includes provisions to remove stalled projects, which could free up resources for new work, like the diversion. And since the F-M project has received excellent marks all along the rigorous review process, chances are good it will secure funding to keep work underway. No one expects the $1.8 billion, multi-year diversion to be fully funded in a single budget cycle.

Opponents of the project believe in their cause, and they are fighting hard to be heard. That’s admirable. But when they aver they really don’t want to kill the diversion, just change it a little, their actions suggest otherwise. That constitutes a credibility problem.

So despite the noise and nonsense emanating from diversion critics, the project’s supporters had reason to smile last week. One of those high hurdles was cleared – an indication hurdles to come will be cleared, too.

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