Beth Askegaard: An Open Letter To Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
Dear Attorney General Lori Swanson:
We are writing to ask you, in your official capacity, to settle a debate that has been raging in our community for the past year. My grandmother Rolaine, who currently resides on our farmstead, and I, being the fifth generation of Askegaards to farm this land in Minnesota, take great pride in being able to carry on the family tradition of tilling the soil. As a female farmer, partnering with my Dad to work the land that my great great grandfather homesteaded, our family’s investment in the community and the state of Minnesota runs deep. As a child, I heard how fortunate I was to farm in this great state from my parents, grandparents and neighbors. The area that my ancestors decided to call home is beautiful and bountiful. The agricultural industry of which we are a part of has always formed the backbone of the state and supported the accomplishments and opportunities possible in the Twin Cities.
As of late however, we have come to question whether our leaders in St. Paul and Washington value our community, Clay and Wilkin Counties, as belonging to Minnesota. There is a real and growing threat that our family farm, community and 35 square miles in Wilkin and Clay Counties will be flooded behind a dam that Fargo, North Dakota, hopes to build on the Red River. The dam provides no benefit to Minnesota and is being promoted as part of a plan for flood protection for Fargo. In reality this is a fraud, necessary only because Fargo desires expansion acres in order to compete with Moorhead and West Fargo, ND for development. Fargo’s Mayor has publicly admitted as much. Fargo intends to drain for development 30 square miles of flood plain in North Dakota. Fargo’s leaders ignored more reasonable and cost effective alternatives that did not provide for flood plain development nor come with such a cost to our precious Minnesota land.
This past week, Wilkin County and an association of local governments including cities and townships in Clay County, MN, commenced a lawsuit on behalf of the state of Minnesota to require that Fargo’s Diversion Authority comply with Minnesota law. Wilkin County’s government and our small communities do not have a lot of resources. Even with financial help from communities in ND who have combined under a joint powers agreement, our community is sadly out gunned. Fargo spends millions of taxpayers’ dollars every month on engineers and lawyers to further their plan.
So the question debated in our community, and the one we would ask you to settle, is this: are Clay and Wilkin counties part of this great state of Minnesota? From where we stand, the bottom of Fargo, North Dakota’s future reservoir, it sure doesn’t seem so. Why are we left to defend our community, our townships, our counties and Minnesota’s laws all by ourselves?