RIGHT MAKES MIGHT

Red River of the North at the homestead

Ever since we moved to Minnesota last spring, there has been a looming, ironic, unfortunate happening in the wings. In January I wrote about it in an entry entitled “The Irony of it All.”  To recap – the Army Corps of Engineers has created a proposal to provide flood protection for the greater Fargo, N.D./Moorhead, MN. Community by diverting the Red River of the North at an upstream location by building a 54,000 acre dam and reservoir which will flood whole communities, century farms, homesteads, historic sites, 13 cemeteries, schools and churches. And you guessed it – right in the midst of my ancestral dreams and heritage.

It’s only too true that the Fargo area is prone to flooding each year. Some years more than others. I’m sorry for that. It’s also true that Fargo was built into a natural drainage swamp, and developers, doing what developers do, kept going and going without regard to Mother Nature. My pioneer ancestors, on the other hand, came to the great prairies, looked around with care, and built accordingly.

The Red River of the North actually flows to the north and because the area farthest north is often still frozen when the snow begins to melt each year, and because the river is lacking in naturally steep banks, it is inevitable that there will be flooding somewhere. But savvy pioneers chose to build their houses upon a slight rise and began to practice drainage, creating ditches to allow the inevitable water to disburse naturally. Uncle Ralph taught me that.

Their descendents, in desperation and heartbreak, have now banded together with mndakupstreamcoalition.com and fmdam.org and taken to battle in spite of much clamoring of “inevitability.”

From the beginning it was suggested that there be a flood of “letters to the editor” but with the caveat that writers should fight figures with facts and not resort to a personal diatribe. Good advice. If the wisdom of the project is to be challenged and overthrown, it might best come about by proving it otherwise. On the engineer’s own terms. No quarrel with this reasoning.

But being an English major, and unable to pull geometrical/atmospherical formulae out of my wordy brain style, I finally succumbed by writing a most personal appeal anyway, based on “The Irony of it All” and sent it off to Kristen Daum, the Fargo Forum reporter in charge of the reportage regarding the Red River Diversion Project.

And she answered! Furthermore, she admitted that she was now “actively trying to reach out to more residents who will be affected by this project” and “my personal story is just the sort” that she wanted to tell. But best of all – “Also, I’m planning to do a long-term, in-depth story aiming to tell the personal side of this project. Would you and your family in Hickson/Comstock mind if I visited with you sometime in the coming weeks to talk more about this?”

We’re still the proverbial Davids against Goliath. The odds will not be reversed on the basis of my simple scribblings. But think about “Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington.” Of the Tortoise and the Hare. Of King Arthur. Might doesn’t make right. The personal story, I believe, is ever the most potent and powerful. Not mine, but all of us together.

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