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Published November 12, 2009, 12:00 AM

Grant boosts flood mapping efforts

Technology that helped Fargo-Moorhead residents fight the 2009 flood will soon be available to help residents up and down the Red River Valley cope with future disasters, officials said Wednesday.

By: Dave Olson, INFORUM

Technology that helped Fargo-Moorhead residents fight the 2009 flood will soon be available to help residents up and down the Red River Valley cope with future disasters, officials said Wednesday.

To help that effort, $750,000 was included in an appropriation bill recently passed by Congress and signed by the president, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said at a Fargo news conference.

The money is earmarked for the Red River Basin Mapping Initiative, which last fall completed an aerial survey of the Red River Valley using a technology known as Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR.

The data allows for making maps that provide elevation numbers for any given spot in the valley with accuracy down to several inches, instead of several feet, which had been the standard.

The information can be used with other data to estimate things like how many sandbags are needed to protect a given property at a given river stage, something an online tool can now calculate.

Some of the advancements made possible by the mapping project were used last spring in the Fargo-Moorhead area’s flood fight, said Charles Fritz, director of the Tri-College University’s International Water Institute.

He said with the help of the new federal dollars, it is hoped that within two years communities up and down the Red River Valley will also be able to take advantage of the technology.

Fritz, who demonstrated the mapping technology at Wednesday’s news conference, said the goal is to develop tools that decision-makers and the general public can use they’re threatened by flooding.

Dorgan said with the valley so prone to flooding, “the more tools we have to address this, the better.”

Fritz said LiDAR data is being used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assess the costs and benefits of the permanent flood protection options now being considered for the Fargo-Moorhead area.

He also said LiDAR data is being processed for the Devils Lake, N.D., area to provide the State Water Commission and the corps with elevation data the agencies can use to identify areas that will be inundated if Devils Lake continues to rise.

Fritz said flood forecast tools based on LiDAR can be found on various Web sites, but he said in the future they will be gathered under the umbrella of the Red River Basin Decision Information Network and its Web site, www.rrbdin.org.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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