WDAY.com |

North Dakota's #1 news website 10,650,498 page views — March 2014

Published October 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

Flood plan meeting packed

Corps presents options for F-M flood control
A public meeting on flood-control plans for the Fargo-Moorhead metro area was packed to overflowing at a downtown Fargo hotel Tuesday.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

A public meeting on flood-control plans for the Fargo-Moorhead metro area was packed to overflowing at a downtown Fargo hotel Tuesday.

Nearly 300 people showed up for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presentation on levee and diversion channel plans, forcing organizers to make two presentations at the Howard Johnson hotel.

It was standing-room-only in the meeting room, with scores of people waiting in the halls.

Several attending said they’d like to see a large-scale diversion channel.

Joann Lawrence of south Fargo said she wants to see a diversion, and not the economy size, either.

“Do it right the first time,” she said. “Go big.”

Mary Nelson lives in Sunrise Acres north of West Fargo.

“What I’d like to hear is that the diversion is the way to go,” Nelson said.

She said flooding in her area this spring meant six weeks of no mail, no garbage pickup, and walking through water in hip waders.

“I would like to have the whole area protected, north, south, east, west. Whatever it costs,” Nelson said.

Another corps public meeting is planned from 6 to 9 tonight on the campus of Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Corps officials worked up six diversion plans in Minnesota, three diversion plans in North Dakota and two levee plans.

Five of the diversion plans in Minnesota, and a levee that can handle a 100-year-flood, provide a high enough annual benefit to be accepted by Congress, said corps project co-managers Aaron Snyder and Craig Evans.

Two North Dakota diversion plans come close to the cost-benefit threshold, but more work is needed to flesh out costs and environmental impacts.

The diversions that appear to have an acceptable cost-to-benefit ratio or near it run from a $962 million Minnesota project to a $1.36 billion North Dakota diversion, corps figures show.

The 100-year levee would cost about $902 million, the corps estimates.

Snyder said the benefits between the North Dakota and Minnesota diversions are equal for projects of equal carrying capacity. The difference comes down to costs related to the engineering problems when the diversion intersects with Red River tributaries in North Dakota.

“Those structures are really expensive,” Snyder said.

Corps figures show that in a 500-year flood, which would push the Red River to 43.9 feet in Fargo-Moorhead, a diversion that moved 25,000 cubic feet of water per second would drop river levels to 39.2 feet, roughly the height of the 1997 flood.

A diversion with a capacity of 35,000 cubic feet per second would drop the river level in a 500-year flood to 35.9 feet, about a foot above where the first homes in Fargo are threatened.

And a diversion of 45,000 cubic feet per second would drop the river level in a 500-year flood to 30.4 feet. That’s the point where Fargo would install the Second Street dike.

There is a split between those who want a North Dakota diversion and those who prefer it in Minnesota.

David Susag lives in North River, about a mile north of Cass County 20.

“After looking at the maps, we know a dike system wouldn’t help us,” Susag said.

He said a diversion west of West Fargo would be the best “for the good of the people of North Dakota.”

On the other hand, Jim Zitzow of South Acres, just south of Fargo, said a middle-of-the-road plan, running through Minnesota, will do the trick.

“The 35,000 (cubic feet per second diversion), I think we can live with that one cost-wise,” Zitzow said.

The corps has said it’s up to local leaders to decide by Dec. 1 on what project they will back, either a diversion or levee system. Plus, if a diversion is wanted, in which state it should be built and how large.

Most of the flood-control benefits for the plans, about 90 percent, are on the North Dakota side of the river, Snyder and Evans said.

They also said a levee protecting against a 50-year flood would require removing 714 structures from along the river in Fargo and 378 in Moorhead. A 100-year levee would require removing 756 structures from along the river in Fargo and 397 in Moorhead.

If a diversion goes through Minnesota, 5,500 to 7,500 acres of land may be needed, depending on the project size, Snyder said.

“No matter what we do, we’re going to have some impact on landowners,” Snyder said.

Evans said the corps rates the projects on which have the best annual net benefits. For example, the short diversion in Minnesota that carries 25,000 cubic feet per second of water comes out with $11 million in net annual benefits, the highest plan of the bunch.

But local governments aren’t required to take the plan with the best annual net benefits, they said.

The local plan can be more expensive, depending on how much protection is sought. But that could also mean having to take on costs beyond a set mark that the federal government will be willing to pay, Evans said.

Some of those at the public meeting were concerned the recently released diversion plans could affect their land.

Tom Beaton lives and farms on the west side of West Fargo.

“Either of these (North Dakota diversion) plans, I lose half of my farmstead or half of my land,” he said.

Snyder said it’s far too early to know who would be affected by any project.

If you go

  • What: Public meeting for flood protection feasibility study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

  • When: 6 to 9 tonight

  • Where: Hagen Hall/Science Lab Complex Auditorium 104 at Minnesota State University Moorhead

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