OUR OPINION: Address issue of Devils Lake compensation
Oxbow, N.D., understandably is upset about the prospect of being flooded in connection with the Fargo-Moorhead diversion. But if Oxbow does turn out to be the place where the Army Corps of Engineers stores water, Oxbow landowners will be compensated.
Oxbow, N.D., understandably is upset about the prospect of being flooded in connection with the Fargo-Moorhead diversion.
But if Oxbow does turn out to be the place where the Army Corps of Engineers stores water, Oxbow landowners will be compensated.
Meanwhile, many landowners around Devils Lake who've seen their own land get flooded remain uncompensated to this day.
If North Dakota tries to stem the rising tide of Devils Lake by building a new outlet, and if the water pouring through that outlet causes flooding in downstream communities such as Valley City, N.D., then landowners in those communities also will be compensated.
There are landowners around Devils Lake whose land has been underwater for 12 years. All that water has dried up their incomes, incomes that they used to earn from farming or grazing their land.
Many of them have yet to see a nickel of compensation, even though their land is serving as the Devils Lake Basin's own Oxbow, storing water that otherwise would be causing problems downstream.
And if Grand Forks by some happenstance floods this year, many local homeowners will breathe easier because they've bought flood insurance. There's peace of mind in the knowledge that even if catastrophe happens, you'll be compensated.
But how could Devils Lake landowners have insured themselves against a catastrophe that neither insurance agents, insurance regulators, North Dakota hydrologists nor the federal government could foresee?
As North Dakota wrestles with flooding issues this spring, residents mustn't forget the victims of "the flood that stayed" -- landowners coping with the astonishing rise of Devils Lake.
Every square inch of the land that the lake has covered was owned by someone or some organization or government. Furthermore, much of that land had been in productive use, delivering an income to its owners and the promise of a future in farming or at least an inheritance for their children.
All that has changed. The flooded land's value has plummeted like a stone dropped into the lake. And as then-Rep. Merle Boucher said last year while running for agriculture commissioner, "The loss of income from flooded lands to producers has been tremendous and difficult to determine. Estimates in the hundreds of millions of dollars would perhaps be accurate. ... Compensation(s) for income losses resulting from flooded farm and grazing land should have been addressed a long time ago."
Boucher had a point. Various proposals have been offered up, including a recommendation to change the "prevented planting" provisions in crop insurance policies so that flooded Devils Lake producers could be compensated.
A few weeks ago, a resolution urging the U.S. agriculture secretary to make the change passed the North Dakota House and Senate unanimously.
As mentioned above, Devils Lake-area landowners are storing the water that otherwise could be causing problems downstream. They deserve their fellow North Dakotans' concern as well as an honest effort to ease the hardship that this landmark catastrophe has caused.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald