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Rogne: Our response to the Diversion Authority's 'Plan B'

Richland and Wilkin counties, through their able lawyer Jerry Von Korff, recently filed their comments to proposed Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion's "Plan B" with the Minnesota Department of Natural resources. The comments in their entirety are a worthwhile read and will be posted on FMDam.org shortly. Here are a few salient quotes.

"The floodplain that Diversion Authority proposes to develop stores water that flows through both Minnesota and North Dakota; that floodplain is storage that benefits both states equally, and the destruction of the floodplain storage reduces the capacity of the River to carry water from both states. What is asserted by the DSEIS is equivalent to arguing that if a Minnesota factory proposes to dump chemicals into the Red River, it's a lesser impact if it dumps the chemicals into the North Dakota side of the river or one of its North Dakota tributaries."

"Minnesota law bars the LPP (Plan A and B) because it is environmentally damaging, and there are lesser impact alternatives, not because Minnesota bars construction of infrastructure that benefits other states. If a pipeline carries petroleum from North Dakota to a refinery in Ohio, it is not prohibited by Minnesota environmental law because the petroleum is North Dakota petroleum delivered ultimately to the East Coast. Minnesota law requires the pipeline to follow a route that does the least damage, one that is the most environmentally sound, but it does not demand that the petroleum must be delivered to Minnesota refineries. If the Minnesota diversion is globally the safest, cheapest, least impact diversion possible, the fact that the primary benefit runs to Fargo is not grounds for denying a permit."

"The Commissioner's order pointed out that approximately 54 percent of the lands removed from flooding in the project's proposed 72,923 acre "benefited" area were "sparsely developed flood plain located outside of Fargo." (Citation Omitted) Throughout their justification of this massive project, both Diversion Authority and USACE wrongly describe this floodplain as "benefitted" by the project, because it would be converted from floodplain to land suitable for scattered suburban development outside the current metropolitan area. That description is misleading: under Minnesota and federal law, floodplain is not benefited by developing it, any more than a lake would be benefitted by draining it and building a shopping center on it."

"Throughout this process, Diversion Authority and their engineers have manipulated the counting of structures. JPA representatives have attempted to verify structure counts and are bewildered at the numbers advanced by the DSEIS. Structures that are already protected by existing state and federal projects appear to be recounted as needed protection. Structures that have been built in the floodplain in violation of national and local policy are treated as being at risk, even though they were intentionally constructed in the floodplain. It appears that the Diversion Authority's structure count must also be counting structures that would be built in the future, because the structure count is otherwise inexplicable. Homes that have never been flooded appear to be treated as at risk. Areas to the Northwest of Fargo that are undeveloped are treated as having numerous structures at risk, even though they are largely undeveloped and unaffected by JPA's proposal."

Rogne wrote this piece with other members of the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority editorial team.

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