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Letter: Get involved and stop the Twin Valley Dam project

The Wild Rice Watershed District (WRWD) Board of Managers, consisting of Warren Sekora, Diane Ista, Jim Wagner, Bob Wright, Joe Spaeth, Dave Vipond, and Mike Christenson, are actively promoting a main stem dam east of Twin Valley. Widespread criticism of this project was voiced at a community meeting last spring in Twin Valley, yet the board ignored popular sentiment and common sense and with legislative help, was able to get $20 million earmarked in the WRDA (Water Resource Development Act) to restudy the feasibility of a main stem dam for flood control, and to apply the part of that $20 million not used for the study toward construction of the main stem dam project.

The main stem dam is touted as the best project for flood control and is being sold to area residents as a permanent lake abound with recreational possibilities. A dam committee has been formed, which not surprisingly, includes Wild Rice River Concerned Citizens, Curt Jacobsen and Richard Ista. They have provided a painting to the WRWD showing their vision of the Twin Valley Dam/Lake. A brochure featuring this "vision" is being created to get funding and support. An example of just one of the inaccuracies in the draft of this brochure, is the statement that the dam is "a way to save the river from erosion, sedimentation and resultant environmental damages."

In reality, if a dam is to provide flood control, the water must be drained down during the summer, providing a storage area for spring runoff and summer storms. That sounds more like a project which will destroy the finest wildlife habitat and ecosystem remaining in Norman County. While the proposed project will ruin the existing wooded river bottoms for those of you who live here, hunt here, or otherwise appreciate the environmental benefits, the cost of this project will affect all the property owners of the WRWD.

The federal government won't provide all the money necessary. That's where the residents of Mahnomen, Norman, and Becker counties come in (this includes all property owners -- ag land, pastureland, woodland, and home owners.). The Wild Rice Watershed Board wants to form a Water Management District (WMD) to raise funds to cover the local share of future flood damage reduction products (which includes the Twin Valley Dam), as well as the maintenance of current projects. Developing a WMD would create an ordinance to allow the district to charge a fee to residents across the entire WRWD for this purpose. This wouldn't be a tax, but let's see if the fee is assessed and must be paid -- then it's n different than a tax.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers determined a main stem dam was not economically feasible only 20 years ago. The re-evaluation study is estimated to cost $1.3 million. The actual cost of construction, land acquisition, mitigation, legal battles to try to get the project permitted, and other related costs have increased dramatically. The total cost of which is conservatively estimated to be $50 million (my figures are from the WRWD presentation at Twin Valley last spring). Given the recent inflation in land values (land will be taken for not only the project area, but also for acuisition of land for mitigation), a cost of $75 million is more likely.

In many projects such as this, the federal government pays 50 percent and expects that the remaining 50 percent be picked up by local residents. Even if the government pays the hoped for 75 percent of the costs (so far WRDA specifies only 20 million of government money is earmarked for this project, and nowhere does the government obligate itself to pay 75 percent of the cost), it still leaves the WRWD property owners liable for the remaining 25 percent, or anywhere from $12.5 million to $20 million -- depending on what the actual cost of the project is.

What can you do besides complain over coffee? You can contact the members of the Concerned Citizens and the Watershed Board managers. Talk to your county commissioners who appoint the members of the WRWD. You can write Congressman Collin Peterson, 211 Rayburn HOB, Washington, DC 20515; Senator Amy Klobuchar, 302 Hart Senate Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20510; and Senator Norm Coleman, 320 Hart Senate Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20510. Writing letters can make a real difference. Please get involved at whatever level you can. Write letters, attend local meetings, but please do something to stop the destruction of the river and the irresponsible spending of taxpayers' money. -- Raymond and Margo Hanson, Twin Valley