Richland-Wilkin partnership celebrated; Berseth is JPA chair

Richland County Commissioner Nathan Berseth, seen in Hankinson, was elected chairman of the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority Wednesday, May 19.

With a 3-1 vote, Richland County Commissioner Nathan Berseth was elected chairman of the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority (JPA). The four-member authority includes commissioners from Richland County, North Dakota, and Wilkin County, Minnesota.

Berseth cast the vote against his being JPA chairman, but nevertheless assumed the title Wednesday, May 19. Berseth cited his role as chairman of the Southern Valley Economic Development Authority (SVEDA), a JPA partner. Unanimous votes were cast to appoint Wilkin County Commissioner Dennis Larson as JPA vice chair and former Wilkin commissioner Stephanie Miranowski as secretary.

Wednesday’s meeting concerned the JPA’s protocol moving forward. The organization was initially formed to opposed or seek an alternative version of the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion flood protection project. Presently, the JPA is responsible for overseeing funds from a long-term settlement obtained as part of the diversion’s approval. SVEDA acts as the JPA’s administrative arm.

In addition to Berseth and Larson, Richland County Commissioner Sid Berg and Wilkin County Commissioner Lyle Hovland serve as JPA members.

Residents directly south of the Fargo-Moorhead metroplex, along the Red River of the North’s upstream, were praised for enduring years to ensure rights, protection and benefits.

“It was community-minded people, shouldering the load on this stuff,” attorney and resident Cash Aaland said. “There was a lot of grassroots (efforts) from the northern townships. The county level picked it up and the city level. It’s been a labor of love. It’s been a labor to watch this and what we accomplished.”

“It kind of forged a bridge across the river,” Larson said. “This really connected the counties together.”

Berseth suggested that the Richland and Wilkin county commissions have an annual joint meeting for the purpose of sharing information and updates.

“We talk more and more about the betterment of our community,” Hovland said. “What better way (is there) than exchange?”

Berg thanked the MnDak Upstream Coalition for its time and commitment, which changed “barstool engineers” into sustained activists and helped fuel the joint powers authority.

“We’re probably one of the few government organizations that went up against a government entity the size of Fargo and survived more than six months,” Berg said.

Berseth and Berg also acknowledged that some people have an attitude that a total win is the only win.

“Not everybody’s a winner, but by far, there’s a lot less losers,” Berg said.

The next Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, June 14 in the Richland County Courthouse.

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