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Diversion ‘option’ is a sham

 The latest missive from opponents of the Fargo-Moorhead diversion is a bad makeover of an option that was shelved because it is unworkable. The nonsense comes from the same folks who want everyone to believe “we are not against the diversion,” we only want it changed.

Trouble is the changes they demand would gut the concept and thus render the project ineffective as a long-term means of protecting Fargo, Moorhead, Minn., and environs from a catastrophic flood. They understand that reality, yet persist in promoting the fiction that they are not against permanent flood protection for a growing urban center of nearly 200,000 people. They are, and their actions confirm they are.

Their not-so-new iteration was examined and re-examined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the multi-jurisdictional Diversion Authority. It would rely on upstream retention, something called “distributive storage,” and moving the diversion route north. Sounds sensible, but it’s not.

In order to achieve the same required water storage that is engineered into the approved diversion plan, about 96,000 acres would have to be identified in the watershed. Time and again diversion studies have concluded acreage of that magnitude could never be secured. And it compares poorly with the approximately 32,000-acre staging area in the approved plan that would need mostly flowage easements, not acquisitions. Such an extensive and expensive 96,000-acre retention network would also have to rely on funding sources as yet unidentified by diversion critics. It also requires construction of dozens of impoundments, each of which would need permits, environmental clearances, individual contracts and unknown perennial operating costs. Not gonna happen.

If upstream opponents are sincere, let them first locate acreage and secure at least tentative agreements from landowners who might be willing to give up their land for water storage. That would a little more than 146 sections (square miles) of land. Good luck with that.

In effect, the unworkable retention scheme is little more than a means to shift impacts of the diversion south — that is away from the area allegedly represented by the Upstream Coalition. It’s an unserious sham. It should be rejected out of hand.