Cash Aaland: Diversion Fight Costs Exceed Flood Fighting Costs

The Diversion Authority made news recently by hiring New York lawyers who charge $1,000.00 an hour. Spending money on lawyers is nothing new for the FM Diversion Authority. To date this committee has paid out more than $4,700,000.00 to lawyers.

Marcus Larson, a vocal opponent of Fargo’s dam project, has been tracking Diversion Authority spending and publishing the monthly totals on his blog at FMDam.org. As of December 31, 2015, the Fargo Diversion Authority has spent approximately $262,000,000.00.

In December alone the Diversion Authority spending averaged $480,000.00 per day. So $1,000.00 hour lawyers is no big deal for these folks.

From what Fargo leaders have spent so far, Fargo could have fought floods for the next two hundred years and still be money ahead.

To put this spending in perspective, Marcus points out that the total cost to Fargo for fighting floods over the past twenty-two years, a period which included the greatest flood in recorded history, was $36,900,000.00. Fargo was reimbursed by the federal government in the amount of $21,600,000.00.

So Fargo grand total flood fighting cost for the past twenty-two years was only $15,300,000.00.

From what Fargo leaders have spent so far, Fargo could have fought floods for the next two hundred years and still be money ahead. It is also important to note that the committee members who have spent these 261 million tax dollars haven’t managed to move one shovel of dirt on their diversion or their dam. Despite this spending Fargo is still unprotected and in the unlikely event next spring brings a flood, up again will go the clay dike on 2nd street to keep Fargo City Hall from flooding.

The $1,000.00 an hour New York lawyers are going to try to get Fargo the Public Private Partnership new project start that will be given to one of several competing Army Corps projects. Even if selected, a PPP authorization is no guarantee that there will be any federal funding as Fargo’s project will still have a terrible cost benefit ratio. In April 2011, the Corps estimated that the backlog of its authorized but unfunded construction projects was $62 billion. A Public Private Partnership authorization will however, enable Fargo’s leaders to borrow two billion dollars, secured by the Cass County private property owners who, by a majority, voted against the assessment district.

So these New York lawyers may enable Fargo to borrow billions, secured by private property, against the owner’s wishes, without any means to pay it back, except by taxing private property owners. This is sort of like your unemployed nephew buying a sofa at a rent to own place at 35% interest. A responsible aunt or uncle would refuse to co-sign that loan, but if you are a Cass County resident in the tax assessment district, you were given no choice. In the big scheme of Fargo spending, $1000.00 an hour New York lawyers is small potatoes.

Cash Aaland is a resident of rural Richland County, near Christine, North Dakota. He is an attorney practicing in Fargo, ND. He is a board member of the Mndak Upstream Coalition, a non-profit organization composed of 100s of residents and property owners in harm’s way of Fargo-Moorhead and the US Army Corps’ plans to construct dams on the Wild Rice and Red rivers south of Fargo. Cash is also a committee members of the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority, a political organization made up of 36 political entitles from Richland and Cass County, North Dakota, and Wilkin and Clay Counties in Minnesota. Members include 3 counties, 9 cities, a water-resource district, two school districts and numerous townships.

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