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Letter to the Editor: Diversion would offer widespread flood protection

I’ve been involved with seeking flood protection for West Fargo since the early 1960s when I first became a West Fargo City Commissioner. It took thirty years to bring about the diversion structure that now protects West Fargo from Sheyenne River flood waters.

Before the Sheyenne Diversion was built, West Fargo’s growth and economic vitality was severely hampered by constant threat from the rising waters of the Sheyenne River. Although not everyone agreed at the time that the project should go ahead, today it is hard imagine a West Fargo without the diversion.

With much of West Fargo now safely protected from the Sheyenne River, it is easy to forget that the city is still threatened by potential flood waters, not from the west this time, but from the east. Yes, during a 500-year flood on the Red River, an event of similar size to that in Minot last year, the entire city of West Fargo would be underwater.

The FM Diversion offers a chance to protect West Fargo from that potential disaster. In particular, a diversion channel on the Red would add protection to those areas south of I-94. It would also bring relief to West Fargo’s neighbors to its immediate north, who, without diversion protection, have suffered through flooding over and over again.

In addition the the direct flood protection it offers West Fargo, a diversion protecting Fargo and Moorhead benefits us indirectly, given our  many residents who rely on our neighboring cities for jobs, healthcare, education, transportation, entertainment, and other services.

Not only West Fargo, but 92 percent of Cass County residents (this is 20 percent of the population of North Dakota), would enjoy the protection that a diversion channel on the Red River would bring. This includes the cities of Briarwood, Harwood, Horace, Fargo, Oxbow, Reile’s Acres and Wild Rice. Even areas immediately outside the Diversion’s channel, such as the city of Argusville, would experience substantial relief.

For those who are negatively impacted, the Diversion Authority must recognize what some are asked to give up and continue to do everything possible to mitigate those effects through ring dikes, upstream storage, and adequate compensation.

With this said, now is the time for us in West Fargo and surrounding towns to stand shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors and let it be known that we are one community and that we need permanent flood protection. The only adequate form of this permanent protection is a Red River diversion. Please join me in telling our legislative leaders in Bismarck that you support state funding for this critically important project.

Jake Gust lives in Fargo