Craig Hertsgaard: Fargo Using Oil Tax Revenues Like An ATM


Who needs a pipeline to move oil field benefits from the west? Fargo diversion backers have concocted a scheme to turn the state’s oil and agriculture bounty into a giant ATM machine. Fargo’s diversion cost estimate is about $2 billion. It’s a sure bet the federal government will contribute little or nothing to this project and Minnesota will pay nothing.

Residents outside Cass County should take notice. There are more plans to transfer the natural wealth of rural parts of the state to the east. The latest topic in the interim legislative water committee is how to get a $1 billion water supply project to the east. Payment schemes are sprouting like oil wells on the prairie. Many revolve around borrowing from state trust funds or federal loan pools in lieu of construction appropriations.

Undoubtedly, the state would be required to co-sign any of the notes, and in all likelihood, would have to absorb any uncollectible debt from the diversion.

While all this is happening, Fargo continues to provide tax incentives for homeowners to build in the natural floodplain south of town, creating the need to build a floodwater storage area beyond the dam and diversion, inundating 50,000 acres of rural farms, cemeteries, and communities.

It’s a mystery why North Dakota’s governor has turned a blind eye and open checkbook to the unparalleled transfer of wealth from western portions of the state with their critical infrastructure needs and development issues. Our state’s budget surplus is directly attributable to the gushing energy industry in the west, and bountiful agricultural production, yet the rural people being swamped by Fargo’s development largesse don’t get as much as an acknowledgement from Governor Dalrymple.

This giant ATM seems poised to spew greenbacks in Fargo’s direction. North Dakota taxpayers deserve to have someone minding the bank that doesn’t bow to Cass County’s parochial interests. Agriculture and energy drive the state’s economic engine, and Fargo wants to take that horsepower and drive their growth at the expense of everyone else.