Manifest Destiny/Eminent Domain

Photo by Vern Whitten Photography
Again the powers-that-be are playing the bully-card; they do it well.

Editorial Team, Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority. For further information contact: Trana Rogne
If my history teacher was right, Manifest Destiny is alive and well in Cass County. County Commissioner and Diversion Authority member Ken Pawluk’s recent editorial in a local newspaper declared that there is nothing wrong with taking 50,000 acres south of town for an upstream reservoir as long as property owners are paid off. Fargo’s vision for the future is greater than “100 homes and …..a couple weeks of additional water on farmland.” It’s apparently tough luck for the communities and business that call the proposed staging area their territory.
The history books say, “The heart of manifest destiny was the pervasive belief in American cultural and racial superiority.” It was first coined in the 1845 July-August edition of the United State Magazine and Democratic review. The U.S. wanted to get territory in the southwest away from Mexico. The Diversion Authority wants to get territory away from residents who live upstream of Fargo. They don’t have to fight a war to do it, they need a judge to grant them eminent domain, and money to pay compensation for the property they take. It’s no secret that Moorhead has virtually unlimited area for growth outside the natural flood plain. A reader can only assume there is some endowed entitlement granted to Fargo for Cass County real estate south of town. They contend current low ground to be encircled by the diversion would offer a greater economic boon for its residents than high ground across the river. Five million Minnesota residents would likely argue that point.
Pawluk cites the critical need for flood protection for Fargo, and he’s right. The fact of the matter is that Fargo’s economic infrastructure can be protected without a 36 mile long diversion and dam. A combination of valley wide distributed storage, dikes and levees, and perhaps a modest diversion could provide reasonable flood protection. What a plan like that cannot do is provide expansive future construction in the natural flood plain. No one wants the disaster that befell Grand Forks in 1997 to happen here. But after the cleanup Grand Forks virtually eliminated their flood risk without harming their neighbors. A requirement of their flood solution was that it have minimal impacts upstream and downstream of their project. They proved in both 2009 and 2011 that it could be done.
This isn’t 1845. Governments can’t simply take large tracts of property to enhance their growth. The DA chose a project purpose that included future development in addition to flood control. What was acceptable two centuries ago is unethical today. Understanding that is why we took history in the first place.

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