On this date in 1940, more than 800 people gathered in Park River to discuss a proposed power plant in Grand Forks. The Nodak Rural Electric Cooperative facility would be powered by diesel fuel, supplying electric energy to a combined group of REA projects, including several in Minnesota. However, many residents in eastern North Dakota opposed the proposal, and the Walsh County Press reported that at this meeting, “charges of “railroading,” politics and an alleged dictatorial policy of the REA in Washington were hurled by speakers, both from the floor and from the platform.”
The Walsh County Press was very outspoken about the matter. It stated that if the plant were built elsewhere along the Soo Railroad lines, such as Fordville in Walsh County, North Dakota lignite could be used to power it, instead of diesel fuel, and claimed that “politics played the major part” in deciding the location.
After reporting on the meeting, the newspaper claimed, “Those who heard [the man from the REA offices in Washington] speak … could not help but be impressed with the idea he tried to put across, which can be expressed in these words: ‘We know that a diesel plant at Grand Forks is the best thing for you, and if you want REA energy, you’d better take it and like it.’” The newspaper called him a “so-called ‘research engineer,’” stating that he was really ignorant of the comparative costs of lignite and diesel fuel, and that “This paper hopes when Mr. Wood returns to Washington he will report that a lot of rural people in Walsh and adjoining counties are not yet willing to take all orders from Washington, and they are ready and anxious to fight for what they believe is right.”
The Walsh County Press included some irate comments for the Grand Forks Herald. The Press stated that the Herald did not publish and even withheld information about these goings-on, writing: “We are not surprised at The Herald’s dull editorial policy. It dates back for years. We recall how Jerry Bacon used to fight the Nonpartisan League until the state mill and elevator was built in Grand Forks, whereupon a hush-hush policy was adopted and has been followed to this day.”
And also this:
“Question: When does a newspaper cease to be a newspaper?
“Answer: When it is the Grand Forks Herald.”
Despite the protests, the plan moved ahead, and that July, the Rural Electrification Administration announced a $60,000 loan to build the plant in Grand Forks.
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
Walsh County Press, January 25, Feb. 1, and Feb. 8, 1940