DIVERSION DISCUSSION: North Dakota’s GOP candidates weigh in on F-M project (Part 2 of 2)

FARGO – Today’s “Diversion Discussion” is the culmination of a three-week effort to share how all Democratic and Republican candidates in North Dakota’s gubernatorial, U.S. House and U.S. Senate races feel about the Red River diversion plans.

We finish with the six candidates seeking the GOP nomination in the U.S. House race – one of whom will also be endorsed by the state party today in Bismarck.


(Read the Democrats’ positions and the Republican gubernatorial and Senate candidates’ positions, as previously published.)


Kevin Cramer (R)

Kevin Cramer

On the current plan:

I don’t think there’s anybody that denies the need for some sort of permanent flood relief … (but) I don’t know enough about what all the options might be.

One thing I can be sure of: There’s no way to do this without it having a negative impact on some people. Regardless of how small the group of people who are harmed versus the number of people who are benefited, it’s no consolation to those that are harmed.

It grieves me to watch what’s happening. … The federal government, as well as local and state governments, have to be prepared to be very generous in its mitigation of people who are harmed.

I must say that I’m disappointed that there hasn’t been a better, more cohesive solution than the one that’s been offered.

Worst-case scenario: If the project can’t be changed to alleviate the upstream impacts, would you support it?

I would sure hope they’d work really hard to either get more people on board or find an alternative solution. Bottom line is, this thing should have gone on the Minnesota side. I know I’m offending friends when I say that, but just because we’re more reasonable and it’s easier to get done here than on the Minnesota side, the geography and geology favors a Minnesota route. … I think there should have been a firm negotiation on the part of the North Dakota side of the river.

It is now what it is.

At the end of the day, I don’t know if it’s going to be up to a member of Congress to support or not support it. These are largely local issues.

If elected to Congress, how would you advocate for the dollars needed to build the project?

You have to work as a team. … This is one area where the team gets together and works really hard together. As conservative as I am, the reason a lot of things need to be cut is so when the appropriate things come along, they can be funded. It’s an appropriate area for the federal government to pay its fair share. … You use all your diplomatic skills and the power of your one vote and the coalitions you build with your colleagues to make sure the funding is adequate.

If Congress continues its ban on earmarks, how would you see dollars secured for the project?

I don’t think it’s an earmark if it’s a budget item that’s negotiated and debated and there’s clear transparency that people are demanding these days. The objectionable earmarks are the things you hide in a bill and hope nobody notices.


Shane Goettle (R)

Shane Goettle

On the current plan:

Fargo does need flood protection and we need to do anything we can to try to mitigate the upstream impacts. There’s some good ideas out there. I think they’re going to take some time to develop, and they’re going to be part of the cost. But we need to do whatever we can to mitigate the upstream effects while we provide flood protection to Fargo.

Worst-case scenario: If the project can’t be changed to alleviate the upstream impacts, would you support it?

I think we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. I know the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers needed to move forward with a path and have always held that changes could be made after they go down this path.

I think that’ll certainly be part of the discussion now, whether the proposed design is the one to move forward with or an amended design. If we can find some alternatives that reduce some of the impacts, that’s something we should take a hard look at.

I would urge everybody to have an open mind about alternatives to accomplish that.

If elected to Congress, how would you advocate for the dollars needed to build the project?

It comes down to making the case that it’d be far more expensive for us not to pursue the flood protection. … As a member of Congress, it’d be incumbent upon me to fully understand that and communicate that the public investment here is warranted, because the catastrophic effects of not doing that could be a bill that’s far greater for our country and our state.

We need an effective advocate in Congress to make that case to their colleagues when it comes to funding a vital project like this.

If Congress continues its ban on earmarks, how would you see dollars secured for the project?

Right now, this is a Corps of Engineers’ project. It would fit in the priority system that the corps has established. They’re moving forward and it is on their track, so whether it’s an earmark or part of normal program funding, there are ways to emphasize the priority of this project over others.


Bette Grande (R)

Bette Grande

On the current plan:

I understand flood protection pretty well. I look out my backyard and I’m looking at drain 27, so I’ve felt the impact.

My concerns and issues with the current plan and what we’re looking at is: We do have an issue with upstream impacts with southern Cass and Richland county and in Minnesota still. Those are not addressed.

Until they’re addressed, I think it is an issue that’s still is on the table. I‘ve sat through meetings, and I’ve looked at this.

This plan requires the diversion – the way they picked it – to cross several rivers. We still do not have the technology and expertise to even deal with that.

Here we are talking about a tremendous amount of money, and we don’t even know how the diversion is going to get set up. … It kind of reminds me of: “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.” We have to decide we’re building the dike and get a bunch of money before we know how we’re going to build it? I question the direction.

… There’s people far smarter and who’ve spent a whole lot more time on this, but those are questions I have that I know that my constituency, as an at-large congressional member, would have.

Worst-case scenario: If the project can’t be changed to alleviate the upstream impacts, would you support it?

We need to look at this plan and find out what the technology is going to bring first. We don’t know how we’re crossing those rivers, so why are we forcing this issue on the southern counties and say we’re going to do this anyway? We’re talking a lot of land impact. That’s people’s livelihood. … You’re talking about moving an entire city, and we need to know why we’re doing that to them.

If elected to Congress, how would you advocate for the dollars needed to build the project?

If we get Washington money, that means we borrowed it from China and elsewhere. Are we going to borrow money to pay for this project? Until we get there and we are able to cut across the board on budgets and set some priorities, that’s the only way we’re going to get money, because you can’t borrow it.

People have to start facing the fact Washington is broke.

If Congress continues its ban on earmarks, how would you see dollars secured for the project?

I don’t perceive this as an earmark, because this is an international and multistate issue. … The corps doesn’t have a magic pot of money; they don’t get money off a tree. It has to be allocated.

The House chamber should be the only ones, according to the Constitution, to spend the money. Let’s look at it, but we’re going to have to look at as a whole.

If there’s a better project out there, we better be looking at them. We better be looking at multiple options, because if this one is too expensive, we know there were other diversions on the table that actually didn’t have a longer waiting period.


DuWayne Hendrickson (R)

DuWayne Hendrickson

On the current plan:

I do support the diversion, and only because of the savings of many peoples’ livelihood, but I am very disappointed in its handling.

I have always been a believer that a zoning/planning commission should look at every possible avenue of staying away from these situations.

In Fargo’s case, they are near a river and in a lake bed. What type of common sense was used in saying, “This was a good place to keep expanding.”

Worst-case scenario: If the project can’t be changed to alleviate the upstream impacts, would you support it?

No.

If elected to Congress, how would you advocate for the dollars needed to build the project?

As a member of Congress, and having a nation in severe financial crisis, finding a majority to go along with this may be difficult. No earmarks stuff. I think the state is going to have to take charge.

If Congress continues its ban on earmarks, how would you see dollars secured for the project?

The state has money. Are we going to continue to borrow and pay interest because people think they can for any project?

The city and state dug the hole. Why does the U.S. government always have to get them out of the predicament their common sense got them into?


Brian Kalk (R)

Brian Kalk

On the current plan:

The current plan is the adopted plan, so I would certainly support funding for it.

The challenge is … you have to figure out a solution that protects Fargo, but also makes sure we take care of the other communities up and down. It’s not going to be an easy solution.

I‘m concerned about all the impacts, … but as this plan evolves, I suspect there’ll be different modifications and tweaks. We have to be cognizant of all the impacts as we finalize these plans.

Worst-case scenario: If the project can’t be changed to alleviate the upstream impacts, would you support it?

If you know you’re going to have impacts upstream that are perhaps not going to be positive, then you’ve got to work ways to minimize that or perhaps offer other solutions that can protect those landowners as well.

You can’t just blindly say, ‘There’s winners and losers.’ You’ve gotta do your best to understand what the negative impacts are and try to lessen those impacts the best you can.

If elected to Congress, how would you advocate for the dollars needed to build the project?

You have to make sure there’s a good plan in place and that you really understand what the plan is and that you’re able to show this is a regional benefit. … You build coalitions and collaborations. You educate folks on the importance of it.

If Congress continues its ban on earmarks, how would you see dollars secured for the project?

I wouldn’t consider a project like this an earmark. If you’ve got a funding line for a specific project, it’s briefed in front of committee and brought to the House floor. An earmark doesn’t have the opportunity to be vetted.


Kim Koppelman (R)

Kim Koppelman

On the current plan:

Clearly, Fargo needs flood protection and we need to find the most effective way to make that happen. The question is whether this plan is the only option, and I think we need to be open-minded about what the best way to get there is. … Other cities along the Red have attacked this issue in different ways. Grand Forks has found a way to find flood protection without building a diversion. I’m not suggesting that those situations are exactly the same, but I think we have to be willing to think outside the box and look at all kinds of other options.

… The tragedy of course is if Fargo’s problem is shifted to someone else and floods their land as a result. That’s one of the catch-22’s that people are struggling with right now with this plan.

Worst-case scenario: If the project can’t be changed to alleviate the upstream impacts, would you support it?

I’m not an engineer so I’m not an expert on the details. I do support flood protection for Fargo, but I think we need to find the plan that makes the most sense, and I’m not sure if this is that plan or if we need to go back to the drawing board.

If elected to Congress, how would you advocate for the dollars needed to build the project?

A legitimate role of government is to do for people what they can’t do better for themselves.

So instead of spending money where perhaps government doesn’t belong or at least should not play as big a role, it makes some sense to look at the areas that are clearly governmental responsibilities and find a way to take care of those needs in an efficient and effective way.

If Congress continues its ban on earmarks, how would you see dollars secured for the project?

I don’t think it should be an earmark. In North Dakota when we pass budgets, when we look at bills, everything is in the light of the day and everybody votes on everything.

Earmarks, the way they’re done in Washington, are people’s pet projects that they’re sneaking into legislation without it standing on its own merit. We don’t do that in North Dakota; we shouldn’t in Washington either.


Have a question about the proposed Red River diversion, or want to recommend a topic you’d like to see addressed in an upcoming column?
Send an e-mail to Forum reporter Kristen Daum at kdaum@forumcomm.com (Subject: Diversion Discussion) or write to Kristen Daum c/o The Forum, P.O. Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
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