The people paying for the F-M diversion will be getting one dollar of benefit for every three dollars they spend building their project. That number is based on the Minnesota DNR’s analysis that a much less expensive Plan A had one dollar of benefit for every two dollars spent. Since that time, the project cost has increased by another 40 percent. Can you imagine paying three times the value of a new car and calling it a good deal?
Fargo Mayor Mahoney’s recent statement that the federal government would pay for 30 percent of the cost, which is about as likely as tulips coming up in December, made it sound like the locals are getting a really great deal. The only way to put the massive cost of the project into perspective is to compare it to its benefits. That’s what the federal Office of Management and Budget does. They analyze the project and make recommendations to the White House on whether to include it in their budget. This project has never been included in the federal budget, because the benefit/cost ratio is too low. There are less expensive alternatives that have been bypassed for parochialism.
Taxpayers in Fargo and the rest of North Dakota should be asking their elected officials why they are bent on flushing their greenbacks down the Red River, when independent agencies say the project is not worth the money? The process of accounting for project benefits was flawed from the start.
The Army Corps pretended that there were no dikes along the river protecting Fargo when they calculated damages from a prospective flood. Diversion Authority leaders have perpetuated that falsehood and ignored the massive protections that have been built through town in the past 10 years. Also included in the original damage estimate was the destruction of all the property that might be built inside the diversion, but does not exist today. The cost-free way to avoid that is for Fargo and Cass County to quit issuing building permits in the flood plain.
The amount of money to be spent on this project is serious business. The current fully funded cost estimate is $3.1 billion. Local politicians can ask for more money from the feds, but there is currently a $100 billion backlog in unfunded Army Corps projects around the nation and there is no guarantee they will get it.
Fargo and Cass County taxpayers are on the hook for an additional $1 billion above recent estimates, with no way to pay it back. The only solution is for residents to start asking some tough questions, and demand honest answers. Fear mongering platitudes by Diversion representatives don’t solve serious financial problems. It’s not too late to make sensible decisions based on financial realities rather than dreams promoted by the DA’s public relations department.