North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven was quoted with a fair amount of enthusiasm in a recent news story, indicating that things were looking good in Congress for the Red River diversion project that would protect the Fargo-Moorhead area from the rising Red River during every spring melt.
Specifically, Hoeven said, the hope was that the project would be “authorized” by Congress.
A big first step, to be sure, but as Fargo-Moorhead residents come out in droves once again to fill a million sandbags in preparation for what’s looking like another tooth-and-nail battle with the mighty Red again this spring, the unfortunate reality is that the diversion project is likely a long way from becoming reality.
Crookston residents know what getting a project “authorized” means. Many years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control project for the Woods Addition and portions of downtown and the Thorndale Ave. area was finally authorized by Congress. It made big headlines in this very paper. But the reality at the time was that getting it authorized only meant that the project had to next be allocated, and then appropriated. Or was it the other way around, with the project being appropriated and then funds being allocated?
Either way, that was for a project in the $10 million or so range. This diversion, that’s a billion dollar gig, and you can bet before a single molecule of dirt is moved that the price tag is going to be far more than $1 billion.
Then there are the concerns from downstream communities about how the diversion will adversely affect them. Will there be lawsuits and litigation? Injunctions? Then there’s the fact that we have two states involved here, which will no doubt trigger more border-related headaches.
This isn’t meant to unnecessarily depress anyone who has pretty much had it up to here with the annual rise of the Red River in the Fargo-Moorhead area. This is just a reality check more than anything else. It would seem that some day, the diversion project will be officially approved and constructed, and two big cities will be protected from the Red River’s rise.
It’s just that, there are likely many flood fights between now and when that day comes.