Bullies, They Aren’t Just in the Schoolyard

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This photo down the hill from my house gives further proof that flooding is out-of-control. Those 50-60-foot cottonwoods stood in 3 feet of water for 3 years, which finally killed most of them. They are standing on the original route of State Highway 18, which made them 50-60 years old. Didn’t make me happy to lose them, also had to move my garden.

http://fmdam.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/1997-Flood-South-of-Fargo-Viewing-North-Along-I-29.jpg

The link takes you to a full screen photo (credit Vern Whitten Photography.) Flood of 1997, south of Fargo looking north. The dam would be built south of the interchange, which would send all that water upriver to small towns and communities where flooding has never been an issue.

Years ago I was heading north on Interstate 29, toward Fargo, North Dakota, population 100,000. Three or four miles south of the first exit there appeared a sign: Future Home of Rutten Park. “Wow,” I thought, “How much land do those people want?”

Not long after that I began finding out how much land they wanted. The Red River Valley consists of some of the richest farmland in the world and should not be paved over and turned into suburban lawns.

Fargo and south of Fargo is natural floodplain.

Fargo wants to grow south. But there’s a problem: ice jams and flooding. The Red River of the North forms the boundary between ND and MN and flows north, crosses the border to Canada and empties into the huge Lake Winnipeg. The problem happens in spring, when the snow is melting. The Red has a gigantic drainage basin that wants to send that melt-water north, all at the same time! Unfortunately, up north the river is still-frozen; therefore ice jams and flooding in the south.

In the flood of 1997, volunteers in Grand Forks, ND, feverishly tried to reinforce the dikes during a blizzard. The dikes broke and that water in just seconds and minutes flooded both Grand Forks and sister city, East Grand Forks in Minnesota. Fires broke out and firemen could not respond due to very deep water. Much of downtown Grand Forks burned. It was a heartbreaking sight that made national news and brought President Bill Clinton to visit.

Fargo mostly ducked that flood but she saw the future, and saw one (and only one) option to prevent future floods: the Fargo/Moorhead Diversion, an enormous ditch that would take the water around Fargo.

Right, the ditch would protect only Fargo.

Remember the Rutten Park sign? That’s about where Fargo wants to grow to (land totally in the floodplain.) They want to build a dam farther south to protect that future growth. Oh, and that dam would cause the flooding of the farms and small towns that—now get this—have never had a major issue with flooding before. Much of that staging area has never flooded.

The diversion monies (much of it federal) have not appeared—go figure: the country is broke. Part of those monies would go for that dam and for building ring-dikes around the small towns and communities. No mention for the farmers affected. I mean they can’t exactly ring-dike all the thousands of acres Fargo wants to affect as their so-called “staging area.”

It should be mentioned that sixteen cemeteries are included in that staging area.

Guess what? The communities affected are fighting back, and are sometimes accused of being anti-diversion, which they aren’t. Everybody knows and agrees that Fargo needs protection from flooding.

Sister city, Moorhead, MN, Grand Forks, and East Grand Forks, have all made improvements: moved houses and businesses out of flood-prone areas, creating “greenways, built better dikes, etcetera, and Fargo has done some similar things, but not enough. They want their way. They want the diversion, and they want that dam to protect their future growth into the floodplain.

One of Fargo’s city leaders is on record saying, we aren’t “…a bully…” or “…bullies…” something like that. I’d like to know what he would call it.
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The last word: Fargo is 35 miles from me. I shop there. I have friends and family there. I want Fargo to stay afloat (after all—even though not one iota of the movie was filmed there, Fargo is where the title of the movie “Fargo” came from.)

But a bully is a bully. Fargo can control her flooding by other means than flooding her good southern neighbors.

Here’s a favorite song to illustrate the powers-that-be, “Powderfinger” from the 1978 album by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Rust Never Sleeps.)

In the song, a bit naïve 22-year-old lad—left “to do the thinkin’”—is on the dock watching a boat in the distance slowly approaching. He’s holding his “daddy’s rifle” and he senses the boat is bringing the authorities…and he senses life-changing intent, from those authorities, but his naivety would prevent him from ever expressing those feelings into spoken words.

I chose this song because the people living on farms near Fargo can see the city coming. They are not naïve. Their future is as unstoppable as that boat; the owners of those farms know their farms will be swallowed up, and, like the lad in the song, they know nothing can stop nothing.

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