Posted on September 19, 2016
By Frank Stanko, Daily News
According to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, it is essential that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers respect his state’s permit decision-making process and not act prematurely to initiate construction of the proposed Fargo-Moorhead Diversion before the process is complete.
He said he was “dismayed” and “deeply disappointed” by the Corps proceeding with the diversion project “without any evident regard” for unresolved issues identified by Minnesota. Dayton stated this in a letter made available to the Daily News Wednesday, Sept. 14.
In the letter, dated Thursday, Sept. 1, Dayton called it “inconceivable” that Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, chief of the Corps, did not request an opportunity to meet with Minnesota and learn more about the state’s permitting issues during an Aug. 22-23 visit where he toured the proposed project area and met with the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority.
“But then I viewed his five-minute infomercial for the project (available on YouTube) and realized this was not a fact finding visit, but rather a promotional tour,” Dayton wrote.
Semonite, Dayton continued, “Sung the praises” of the diversion, “that he promised to deliver by 2023, apparently with or without the required Minnesota permits.”
“This is not how we do business in Minnesota,” Dayton wrote.
He went on to state that Minnesota has not “come together” with the Corps and North Dakota to advance the proposed diversion.
“In all my years of public service at the state and federal levels, I have never seen such a complete disregard for the process of a co-regulator,” Dayton continued. “You should understand that a favorable permit by Minnesota is by no means guaranteed and I take exception to actions by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its non-federal sponsors to suggest otherwise or attempt to advance project construction in the absence of the required Minnesota permits.”
Dayton also referred to July’s signing of a partnership agreement by the Corps and Diversion Authority as coming from a “premature decision” by Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Corps’ Civil Works division. In July, the Daily News reported Darcy was sent a letter from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr before the agreement was signed. In it, Landwehr reminded the Corps that an environmental impact statement, which was determined as “adequate,” was not formal approval of the diversion project.
“Statements and actions like (the agreement signing and YouTube video) demonstrate a federal disregard for state regulatory authority, which is very concerning to me and confusing to members of the public. Such rhetoric clouds an already complicated process and is a source of significant stress for many citizens in the project area,” Dayton wrote.
Among those who initially received Dayton’s letter were Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget; Darcy; Semonite; Darrell Vanyo, chairman of the Diversion Authority; Mayor Timothy Mahoney of Fargo; and Mayor Del Rae Williams of Moorhead, Minnesota.
Attorney Cash Aaland, Fargo, said lack of response from Mahoney in particular is an example of not being transparent and open with the public. This is especially concerning, Aaland continued, as both Fargo and Cass County, North Dakota, are facing November ballot initiatives that would increase their sales taxes to partially pay for the diversion.
In August, the Fargo Forum reported that both ballot measures would extend the three half-cent sales taxes “as late as Dec. 31, 2084.”
Source: Daily News