Category Archives: Diversions

Fargo, North Dakota, the Big Bully on the Red River

Sometimes, when the powers-that-be of Fargo do something completely below the belt of what’s fair and honorable, I just cannot keep my own mouth shut. A word here, I no longer send letters-to-the-editor to The Forum, because that newspaper is staunchly on the side of Fargo’s powers-that-be. Letters like the one below (against the high dam, not the diversion) are not published by the Forum, so for editorials the writers must go to the smaller city and newspaper to the south at Wahpeton, ND.
And not that my little blog post here will help, but when the powers-that-be go too far, as I said, I just can’t keep my mouth shut.


Oxbow’s annexation antics over the past six months should impress even Donald Trump. The dash for cash started by the Diversion Authority’s promise of a lucrative buyoff for the little community south of Fargo, has turned into a full blown leap for a golden ring.

Oxbow and the neighboring settlements of Hickson and Bakke used to peacefully coexist in the rural setting along the Red River, but no more. They began on the same side of opposing being flooded by a proposed dam on the Red. But DA chairman Daryl Vanyo’s claim that North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple demanded country club members at Oxbow be made happy or he wouldn’t fund their diversion, has changed that.

Last fall, Oxbow announced their intention to place Hickson and Bakke in their extraterritorial zone. That means they would have to follow Oxbow’s zoning rules. Oxbow handed their neighbors a 90 page book of rules dictating how they could create and maintain their property. Many of the new laws make it too expensive for the pocketbooks of current residents to improve or change their homes.

The residents weren’t happy, so they approached the city of Kindred to consider annexing their two little communities into their town. So Oxbow one-upped them. They annexed a 300 foot strip around the outside of Bakke and Hickson, effectively locking them under their control.

The 75 homeowners are now stuck under Oxbow’s zoning rules whether they like it or not. Oxbow couldn’t annex them, because the country club crowd that runs the city council would be outnumbered by Bakke and Hickson residents, along with residents of Oxbow that don’t align themselves with their mayor or city council.

A result of the annexation, was the inclusion of property owned by Kevin Bartram in Oxbow’s new city limits. That meant that Bartram qualified for a buyout based on the Memorandum of Understanding negotiated by Oxbow city leaders that provides purchase packages worth more than 400% of appraised property values.

Trump has got to be smiling at this one.

But residents of Bakke and Hickson may have dodged a bullet by not being annexed. Red flags are being waved by Fargo city commissioners, and other residents who object to the largesse thrown around by the DA with their tax money. Despite claims of a “rock solid MOU” by Oxbow’s mayor, one Fargo commissioner has suggested that ND’s attorney general to look into the spending practices of the DA. If governor Dalrymple’s demand to gratify Oxbow started this mess, perhaps he will have to be the one to stop it.
Again I will add Neil Young’s song about standing up to the powers-that-be, at least “that” is what I take from the song “Powderfinger.”
From the album, Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Powderfinger (Rust Never Sleeps) – 1979


The photo above shows the flood of 1997, that natural floodplain which Fargo wants to grow into,
Thanks to Vern Whitten Photography
For quite some time now I’ve been getting an email newsletter addressing Fargo, North Dakota’s perennial flooding problem, or rather, Fargo’s desire to grow south into the natural floodplain. And there is the key word: natural floodplain. In order to grow south and continue protecting their dazzling growth Fargo wants a high dam which would flood the communities south during flood times, in other words they want their neighbors to get flooded so Fargo doesn’t have to.
It’s all tied to the proposed diversion of the Red River of the North, a huge ditch to divert flood waters around Fargo and send it raging north, for the communities north to deal with it. Fargo no longer wants to. Fargo could build more dikes and other options to protect their city, but they don’t want to, they want to grow south and want other communities to get the heck out of their way!
As I said, I’ve been getting this newsletter. Fargo’s plan does not directly affect me (except that I think that town is big enough!) so I’ve just read the newsletters and did nothing else. This time I think the Diversion Authority (the DA) has gone too far. They don’t care that all the cemeteries in those southern communities will get flooded. Did you get that? They don’t care!
So, this time, not that it will help, but I’ve decided to re-publish the newsletter on my blog.

Editorial Team, Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority. For further information contact: Craig Hertsgaard is a Richland County farmer and member of the MnDak Upstream Coalition. Email: Telephone: 701-428-3059.

The Army Corps says the cost to protect the graves of those buried in cemeteries upstream of the diversion project is $14 million, and it’s not worth it.

The proposed Fargo diversion will cause those cemeteries to flood. They’re wrong, and it’s sad. They have already paid more than $10 million for a clubhouse at a private golf course, but a modicum of respect for the people who devoted all they had to give us life and a future isn’t worth it.

Residents of North Dakota and Minnesota should be ashamed over what is happening in the Red River Valley. Fargo’s plan to carve 20,000 acres out of the natural flood plain for future development means more than twice that much land must be flooded behind a dam when the Red River is high. Cemeteries in both states will be inundated with 8 feet of water for more than two weeks.

Watching relatives and neighbors care for our rural cemetery like it was their own back yard, knowing that someday it would be, was an education in culture and faith. I farm the land across the road from that graveyard. I watch people come in the evening, and sometimes early in the morning before work, standing or sitting by the graves of their loved ones. Some come from a long ways away to renew their ties with home. Often times, they come to find peace; perhaps peace from a long illness of a family member, or peace from an unresolved relationship. Most times, I think it is peace for ourselves, to know there will be respect for our lives when we’re gone.

Diversion planners say we’re not worth it. The pioneers that died of typhoid and tuberculosis are not important. The veterans that laid in foxholes and fence rows are inconvenient. The responsibility to raise a civilized society is to be subjugated by greed.

Fargo can protect its city without flooding 50,000 acres upstream. They say they can’t have their building spree without flooding our cemeteries. At society’s base, we are better than that. At least those buried in our graveyards are.
The last time I shared one of the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority’s newsletters I posted this same song by Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Powderfinger, from the 1979 album, “Rust Never Sleeps.” It tells the same story of the powers-that-be lording over lesser people.