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Cash Aaland, Published February 08 2014

Letter: Coalition’s plan puts Fargo first

In response to The Forum’s Jan. 2 editorial:

Two weeks ago, the MnDak Upstream Coalition detailed an alternative to Fargo’s diversion plan that would put Fargo first and deliver the same level of protection for the Fargo-Moorhead metro without impacting upstream communities. If the southern inlet to the F-M Diversion is moved three miles north, impacts to Richland and Wilkin counties in North Dakota would be eliminated. Comstock and Wolverton, in Minnesota, would not be flooded. There would be no need to spend $70 million on a new private golf course and country club for Oxbow. This alternative provides these benefits, even if no upstream retention is implemented. A map of the staging area without any upstream retention can be viewed at: http://fmdam.


The only difference between this alternative and Fargo’s plan is that the water is staged in the floodplain, where it already floods. Fargo’s plan destroys this floodplain, eliminates the natural storage area, and backs water onto communities such as Comstock and Wolverton that do not now flood.

Additionally, taxpayers would save more than $200 million because: 1) the Wild Rice River dam would be unnecessary; and 2) spending $70 million tax dollars on a golf course, country club and ring dike for Oxbow would be unnecessary. Oxbow is protected to a level of 918 feet, according to documents released by the state water commissioner. If the inlet is moved north of the Wild Rice / Red River confluence, during a near 500-year flood in Fargo (42.5 feet), the water level in Oxbow would only be 917.56, without any upstream retention.

How does this work? The “Fargo first” alternative takes advantage of the natural floodplain, storing the water in the low area that always floods and should not be developed. This area is depicted in blue on the map that can be viewed at FMDam.org at the above listed link. This natural low area starts at the confluence and extends south for three miles. Fargo’s plan eliminates this natural floodplain, storing the water instead over a huge area centering on Comstock and the Bakke subdivision, two areas that have never flooded.

There are almost no impacts caused by this “Fargo first” plan, according to the criteria set out by the Army Corps of Engineers and Fargo’s Diversion Authority. This is because the area where the water is staged – low-lying floodplain – would be inundated during a

42.5-foot Fargo flood without the project.

This plan puts Fargo first, ahead of the special interests, land developers and Oxbow’s private country club owners. What’s it going to be: protection for Fargo residents, or a poorly conceived, overpriced development plan that favors Fargo special interests at the expense of everyone else?

Aaland is a Fargo attorney and a director of the MnDak Upstream Coalition.