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WDAY: The News Leader

Published June 14, 2010, 09:04 AM

Landowners continue to oppose diversion project

While the Corps of Engineers and many local leaders are behind a diversion project 100 percent, the landowners are one loud voice of opposition. Many landowners up and down the valley say they don't have flooding problems now and are being punished for a problem in Fargo.

Horace, ND (WDAY TV) – Tonight, engineers with the Army Corps are telling land owners affected by a diversion that it's the best option to protect the Valley from future flooding. Engineers say they've looked everything, even flood walls, but none work the way a diversion will.

Tonight, Corps members went over the plan, going into more detail of cost and other figures. Corps Engineers say it's been difficult for them to get landowners on board, but they're confident a diversion is the best line of defense.

“It is almost impossible to build a flood wall higher. With a levy system, you can do some stuff on top of the levy, like you've done here in Fargo, but if we build flood walls, once you get to the top it's pretty much the top.”

Another landowner meeting with the Corps is scheduled for tomorrow night at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead. A question and answer session is at six, a formal presentation at seven.

While the Corps of Engineers and many local leaders are behind a diversion project 100 percent, the landowners are one loud voice of opposition. Many landowners up and down the valley say they don't have flooding problems now and are being punished for a problem in Fargo.

It's not easy to find a landowner who's actually in favor of this project and tonight they say it's taking away something that can never be returned; their land.

“There are too many people that say we don't want to lose our view of the river in town. Well we don't want to lose our view of the countryside here.”

If a diversion project is built, Tom Beaton, a 60 year old lifelong farmer will have to start over. Beaton says digging this ditch isn't the answer. He wants flood walls to be considered. Beaton is hoping problems with Devils Lake will overshadow the problem here and delay the project.

“We're kind of looking for a sympathetic congressman around the United States that says hey, this is too big of a project to reward Fargo with.”

Many landowners also want other options to be considered. A lot of them agree floodwalls are a good alternative. They understand something has to be done, but not at the cost of uprooting farmsteads and businesses.

“Been there 16 years and made some improvements, and just thought we were going to be staying there.”

Another worry is compensation. Landowners have been guaranteed fair market value, but some say that's not enough, because they're counting on the land as income for retirement and for future generations.

“They're really not giving us the option whether we want this or not. They're pretty much coming and saying this is where we're going to go, we want your land, this is what we're going to give you.”

Landowners also say they don't like the idea of the diversion because they feel it dumps water from Fargo on to other small communities that otherwise wouldn't have that much of a flooding problem.

People interested in learning more about the diversion project can now look through the plan on paper at the Fargo Public Library. The main downtown branch has the 21 volume full report in the upstairs reference section. The report is only available for 45 days and can't be checked out.

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