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Published August 27, 2009, 12:00 AM

Flood group urged to work quickly

Getting the federal government to count the full economic impact of major floods in the Fargo-Moorhead area was a major concern for officials at the first meeting of the Metropolitan Flood Management Work Group.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

Getting the federal government to count the full economic impact of major floods in the Fargo-Moorhead area was a major concern for officials at the first meeting of the Metropolitan Flood Management Work Group.

The group, charged with deciding on a flood protection plan that meets federal standards and local needs, met Wednesday in Fargo’s City Commission chambers.

The group was urged to work quickly.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have flood protection plans narrowed to a few alternatives by mid-October, and expects to have one plan ready to work up for Congress by mid-January, according to a corps timeline.

Craig Evans, a corps engineer and one of two project managers for the Fargo-Moorhead Metro Feasibility Study, said the aim is to get a flood-control plan into the Water Resources Development Act of 2010.

“We’re going to need an awful lot of local discussion,” Evans said,

If the deadline is missed, the metro area will have to wait at least two more years for another water act, he said.

The last Water Resources Development Act was passed in 2007. Before that, one was passed in 2000.

Cass County Commissioner Scott Wagner said it is “critically important” to include all local economic impacts to be sure that federal cost-benefit ratios will support funding local flood protection.

Expanding on that, Brian Walters, president of the Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corp., said the potential loss of manufacturing firms with global ties should be included in any analysis.

Evans countered that the corps is “trying to identify every possible benefit that we can.”

However, federal rules require that only factors affecting the national economy, such as destroyed buildings and equipment, be included in the analysis, he said. Even regional impacts are given little effect, he said.

The federal share of a flood-control project can be 65 percent, with the remaining costs split among state and local governments as they decide, Evans said. Local costs can rise as high as 50 percent, depending on how the project is designed, he said.

When discussion drifted into whether a plan could also be designed to handle droughts, Fargo City Administrator Pat Zavoral reminded the group that trying to do too much could derail the process.

“It could be seven or eight years here if you let it slip,” Zavoral said.

The corps is studying several flood-protection options, including a

$909 million diversion of the Red River through Minnesota, a $625 million levee plan that includes Fargo’s Southside Flood Control Project, and a diversion through North Dakota.

Fargo City Commissioner Tim Mahoney and Clay County Commission Vice Chairman Kevin Campbell were chosen as co-chairmen of the group.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Officials from both sides of Red River on flood group

The Metropolitan Flood Management Work Group is comprised of 11 elected officials from Fargo, Moorhead, Cass and Clay counties, and the Buffalo Red River Watershed District and Southeast Cass Water Resource District.

They are charged with working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine the flood protection plan for Fargo-Moorhead that will be forwarded to Congress for inclusion in the 2010 Water Resources Act.

The members:

  • Co-chairman. Tim Mahoney, Fargo city commissioner.

  • Co-chairman. Kevin Campbell, Clay County commission vice-chairman.

  • Brad Wimmer, Fargo city commissioner.

  • Grant Weyland, Clay County commissioner

  • Scott Wagner, Cass County commissioner.

  • Darrell Vanyo, Cass County commissioner

  • John Rowell, Moorhead city councilman

  • Lauri Winterfeldt, Moorhead city councilwoman.

  • Nancy Otto, Moorhead city councilwoman.

  • Gerald Van Amburg, vice chairman, Buffalo Red River Watershed District.

  • Tom Fischer, chairman Southeast Cass Water Resource District.

As chairmen, Mahoney will lead the meetings on the North Dakota side of the river, and Campbell will lead on the Minnesota side.

The group agreed to alternate meetings between Fargo and Moorhead locations.