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Published April 14, 2009, 07:27 AM

RRV farmers likely to face sacrifices in flood control

The Red River Valley contains some of the world’s finest farmland. But there are signs, including comments by a top agricultural leader, that area farmers will need to make sacrifices to control future flooding. “The only way this is going to work, in my opinion, is if everybody gives up something, and that includes farmers,” said Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

By: Jon Knutson, The Forum

FARGO

The Red River Valley contains some of the world’s finest farmland.

But there are signs, including comments by a top agricultural leader, that area farmers will need to make sacrifices to control future flooding.

“The only way this is going to work, in my opinion, is if everybody gives up something, and that includes farmers,” said Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

Peterson, whose northwestern Minnesota district includes Moorhead, is chairman of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee.

It’s too early to predict what form Fargo-Moorhead flood-control efforts will take or how much farmland might be at stake.

The North Dakota Agricultural Statistics Service pegs the value of cropland in the southern Red River Valley at $1,992 per acre.

Flood-control possibilities include a diversion, dams, permanent dikes, and a “Waffle Plan” from the University of North Dakota.

More than one potential project can be proposed to control flooding in a given area, said Tami Norgard, an attorney with Fargo’s Vogel Law Firm who works with water law issues.

The merits and shortcomings of each proposal are debated, with the people affected given a chance to weigh in, she said.

“Public input is so important,” she said.

Norgard’s clients have included both farmers and watershed authorities.

“I can see both sides of the issue,” she said.

Because a detailed project to control Red River flooding hasn’t been proposed yet, it’s difficult for farmers to comment, said Craig Hertsgaard, a Kindred, N.D., farmer and president of the Cass County Farm Bureau.

But farmers expect and deserve “a seat at the table” when flood control is considered, he said. “Flooding is a valleywide problem, and it needs a valleywide solution.”

The Waffle Plan – think of how ridges on a waffle hold syrup – was developed by UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center as a way to control flooding.

Under the proposal, spring runoff would be stored temporarily in existing depressions, including fields, until major flood crests pass.

No farmland would be taken out of production, said Gerry Groenewold, the center’s director.

Peterson emphasized that farmers won’t tolerate being the only ones who sacrifice for flood control.

For instance, Fargo and Moorhead need to consider buying out flood-prone neighborhoods, he said.

“Everything has to be on the table,” he said.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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