Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Roseau County Landowners Demand Watershed District Disavow Eminent Domain, Receive No Guarantee Their Property Is Safe


November 19, 2020

The Roseau County Landowners Coalition attended a Roseau Lake project work session earlier this month to demand that the Roseau River Watershed District (RRWD) abandon its plans to force farmers to install flood easements on or sell their productive, multi-generational farmland.

The RRWD's unnecessary and costly flood mitigation project requires the acquisition of property that is owned by farmers and landowners who do not want to sell. If the RRWD wants to build its current vision, they will have to use eminent domain to acquire easements, against the will of the property owners. An "easement" is a taking of property, and will render the farmers' taken property useless.

Property owners were hopeful that the RRWD would disavow taking their land, but unfortunately they left the work session with renewed clarity: the threat of losing their land for this project remains. The RRWD Board Chairman refused to go on record against using eminent domain.

"The Roseau County Landowners Coalition's position is simple: we will not support a project that takes private property away from unwilling sellers. Easements are takings, and these easements would render much of these farmers' land unfarmable," said Melanie Benit, an activism associate with the Institute for Justice (IJ), which is assisting the Landowners Coalition. "We are grateful for the support of individual board members who committed to respecting Roseau landowners' property rights, but it is disappointing that the board as a whole could not. This should outrage farmers throughout the region."

This "lake rehabilitation" project proposes a combination of embankments and flood control gates. predominantly on private land, to keep excess water in the historic basin. In order to either acquire the land outright or force an easement on these private lands, the RRWD would have to take unwilling sellers to court through eminent domain proceedings. Taking the land outright or by easement makes no difference to the farmers, as either is a loss of farmable property.


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