Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Anyone have a spare billion dollars?

Is it petty of me to be taking some level of umbrage with a select few down in Fargo calling for a diversion to protect that metropolitan area from flooding? (Fargo Forum article) ("Flood Protection Coalition for the FM-Community")

Perhaps diversions can offer advantages over dikes and floodwalls. In fact, I remember that in the wake of the 1997 flood I thought a diversion sounded like the best method of protecting Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. Then I started to realize that the cost was simply going to be far too high and a less costly system could offer a similar level of protection.

Don't get me wrong. The flood protection system that the Grand Cities eventually did construct was expensive. In fact, I sometimes think about the wonderful gift that has been given to us in this system. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to protect us and the money came from not only here at home but from each and every taxpayer in this country. We should be very grateful.

Having said how expensive the system that is now in place turned out to be, we actually did go with the less expensive method. A diversion would have cost not millions but likely billions. So what we have in place is the "cheap" option. Does it give us a "cheap" level of protection? Hardily. Even when the floodwaters rise perilously high as they did this spring, the mood is so different in Grand Forks than it used to be. The system has been tested and it clearly works. In my opinion, quality of protection is not a real issue here. Both diversions and dikes can offer a high level of protection.

Sure diversions limit the need to buyout homes within city limits. Sure dikes can obstruct the view of the river from within the city. Grand Forks suffered dearly in 1997...far more than any other Red River Valley city has seen since. If the residents of Grand Forks had to make sacrifices to protect their city in the wake of utter destruction, why should residents of Fargo not be asked to make similar sacrifices?

Pretending that dikes and floodwalls are inherently ugly things is wrong. Sure they can be unattractive if they aren't done right. The Fargo diversion group's website states that "The dikes, floodwall and such things are unsightly." Really? Have Mr. Schafer, Mr. Burgum, Mr. Offutt, or Mr. Scheel ever visited the Grand Forks Greenway system? Is a giant park bordering the river unsightly? If they did visit, they would find a massive system of well-maintained parks and trails that sees plenty of use and has actually focused attention towards the river instead of detracting from it. In fact, the Red River corridor in Grand Forks went from being something that outside of the downtown area was virtually hidden in backyards to being a public place that anyone in Grand Forks can enjoy.

So if the dikes and floodwalls in Grand Forks provide a more than adequate level of protection while at the same time creating an attractive and massive system of public parks, why would a similar system in Fargo be something to frown upon? Grand Forks went through a horrific disaster and responded by building an expensive but reasonably priced flood control system that protects the city and enhances quality of life for many. Fargo had a very close call and now a group of men with powerful and wealthy names want to respond by spending massive amounts of money to build a system that would offer essentially the same level of protection found in Grand Forks but that would also "protect the view" for a select few.

It may be childish of me, but it basically boils down to this: if it's good enough for Grand Forks, why isn't it good enough for Fargo?


Matthew said...

Here here.

Jtown11 said...

Even if they build a diversion, the cities will still need to build dikes. A diversion only takes off 5 feet from the river according the the Corps. Why waste the money, do it right the first time.

FargoGuy said...

I've been to Grand Forks many times and the "walls" you have lining the river actually negatively impact the aesthetics of the river area. Folks don't want to see brick/concrete walls, they wanna see nature. Not too mention, a flood wall wouldn't have been able to handle the sheer volume of water flowing through the FM area last April...