WDAY: The News Leader

Published July 27, 2010, 09:44 AM

Association formed to make sure landowners' rights aren't violated

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Area landowners who are in the way of the North Dakota diversion plan have some new help in their corner: The North Dakota Landowners Association. The association is neutral on the project, but does want to make sure landowners' rights aren't violated. Tonight they put on a town hall meeting to get a feel for concerns and answer questions as the diversion project moves forward.

About 50 landowners showed up to tonight's town hall meeting. One of the invited speakers is a man who has fought for flood protection north of the floodway in Winnipeg.

“When we get assurances from the people who are building it, or want to build it, we have to take it with a grain of salt.”

Jack Jonasson has been through diversion planning and construction. He says in Winnipeg, it hasn't helped, it's actually made things worse, that's what he fears will happen with the North Dakota project. Jonasson says this project was a purely political decision.

“You're making a majority of the voters in this area happy because the majority live inside Fargo and West Fargo.”

Because of the diversion plan, fourth generation and lifelong farmer Stuart Johnson will have almost no land left. 80 per cent of it is in the diversion path.

“I'll probably end up moving out of North Dakota because my livelihood will be gone.”

Johnson has been a regular at flood meetings and input sessions. He calls himself a number cruncher and carries around a copy of the Corps of Engineers' feasibility study.

“They need to do more studies on this because their numbers, when you start crunching them, are mostly inaccurate.”

Johnson is confident the dispute between landowners, the city, county, and water resource boards will be settled in court and in his favor.

“I mean, these are people's lives at stake here and you can't take that livelihood, you really can't.”

Leaders of the North Dakota Landowners Association say they decided to step in for the farmers because they think the project is moving too fast, and decision aren't being thought out.