Craig Hertsgaard: The Dead Aren't Worth It


Cemetery CartoonThe Army Corps says the cost to protect the graves of those buried in cemeteries upstream of the diversion project is $14 million, and it’s not worth it. The proposed Fargo diversion will cause those cemeteries to flood.

They’re wrong, and it’s sad.

They have already paid more than $10 million for a clubhouse at a private golf course, but a modicum of respect for the people who devoted all they had to give us life and a future isn’t worth it. Residents of North Dakota and Minnesota should be ashamed over what is happening in the Red River Valley.

Fargo’s plan to carve 20,000 acres out of the natural flood plain for future development means more than twice that much land must be flooded behind a dam when the Red River is high. Cemeteries in both states will be inundated with 8 feet of water for more than two weeks.

Growing up with relatives and neighbors who cared for our rural cemetery like it was their own back yard, knowing that someday it would be, was an education in culture and faith.

I farm the land across the road from that graveyard. I watch people come in the evening, and sometimes early in the morning before work, standing or sitting by the graves of their loved ones.  Some come from a long ways away to renew their ties with home. 

Often times, they come to find peace; perhaps peace from a long illness of a family member, or peace from an unresolved relationship.  

Most times, I think it is peace for ourselves, to know there will be respect for our lives when we’re gone.

Diversion planners say we’re not worth it. The pioneers that died of typhoid and tuberculosis are not important. The veterans that laid in foxholes and fence rows are inconvenient. The responsibility to raise a civilized society is to be subjugated by greed.

Fargo can protect its city without flooding 50,000 acres upstream. They say they can’t have their building spree without flooding our cemeteries. At society’s base, we are better than that. At least those buried in our graveyards are.