Roseau County, Minn.—Today, the Roseau County Landowners Coalition parked two 50-foot trailers in Roseau to spread the word about a project that would devastate their productive family farmlands for no real benefit. At over 50 farmers and landowners strong, the Coalition is launching a campaign in collaboration with the Institute for Justice (IJ), a national nonprofit dedicated to stopping the misuse of eminent domain.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Roseau River Watershed District are demanding that flood easements be installed just south of the Roseau Lake Basin on private farmland, which would make the land unfarmable. If these farmers don’t agree to flood easements, the government has threatened to take their land through eminent domain. Worse still, there is little evidence that the plan, which the government says is intended to minimize flooding, will actually accomplish that goal.
“We have been here for generations, and now this misguided project with no real public benefit to justify the huge cost to us farmers will devastate us,” said Terry Kveen, whose family has farmed their land in Roseau since his great-grandparents came to Minnesota in a covered wagon well over one hundred years ago. “This project will not result in meaningful flood reduction or foster a new wildlife habitat. It will simply destroy our very productive farmland.”
The Roseau Lake Rehabilitation Project proposes creating a lake on the existing Roseau Lake Basin for flood damage reduction and for improved wildlife habitat, but on both counts, reality tells a different story. Patrick Nortz, a licensed hydrologist and certified professional engineer, estimated that this project will result in a mere 5% decrease in flooding downstream—at a price tag north of $10 million to taxpayers. Far from a lake, the project would turn the usually dry basin into a semi-permanent marsh, typically 6 inches deep and up to 18 inches. Meanwhile, surrounding farmland will flood more.
The farms that will suffer from this proposal involve real families that have a connection to their farms lasting for generations, with the intention of lasting for generations more, unless this project takes place. Take Mitch Magnusson, who grew up on his Roseau farm and has worked his own land since the 1980s; his great grandfather put down roots there in 1895. Now, Mitch’s children carry on the family tradition and work the land themselves, farming wheat, soybean, sunflowers and more.
“It’s very rich land that we have on the farm, it’s just beautiful in the ground. I want to continue farming for myself and for my kids for generations to come,” said Mitch Magnusson.
The Roseau County Landowners Coalition has created a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/StopRoseauFarmsLandgrab/, and a website, http://stoptheroseaulandgrab.com, to educate and gather support for families like Mitch’s .
Minnesota’s Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, tasked with restoring, protecting and enhancing Minnesota’s wetlands and wildlife—goals that will not be achieved by this project—has committed $2.67 million toward this land grab. On Wednesday, the Roseau County Landowners Coalition will be sending a letter to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council outlining their opposition to the project, and expressing their dismay at being left in the dark as the process has slowly been unveiled.
The group is working with IJ, a national public interest, civil liberties law firm dedicated to stopping the abuse of eminent domain. IJ represented Susette Kelo and her neighbors before the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London and has successfully litigated on behalf of property owners throughout the country. IJ has helped save over 20,000 homes and small businesses from eminent domain abuse through grassroots activism.
“Many farmers whose entire livelihoods and ways-of-life could be upended by this unnecessary project have only learned of it in the past few months.” said Chad Reese, an activism policy manager with IJ. “Taxpayer dollars should not be used in such an insidious way. The Roseau River Watershed District must completely abandon this plan. Minnesota families will pay the price if it does not.”