Fargo-Moorhead to test new flood-fighting toolsFargo-Moorhead could become a hotbed for testing new flood-fighting techniques.
By: Patrick Springer, INFORUM
Fargo-Moorhead could become a hotbed for testing new flood-fighting techniques.
Since last year’s record Red River flood – and with another major flood likely this spring – the metro area has been inundated by vendors offering flood control solutions.
Local officials are planning to invite vendors to demonstrate their flood solutions after the next flood forecast is released Friday.
“We know what works, and we know there are things that can be improved,” said Mike Williams, a Fargo city commissioner. “We can always look at this stuff.”
A firm with extensive experience building flood control systems in Europe is among those eager to show what it has to offer in protecting Fargo-Moorhead.
EKO Flood Systems USA representatives say they could build a system of levees and floodwalls that would handle last year’s 40.84 flood record crest for about $600 million with 40 miles of barrier protections.
“We have a lot of experience in this,” said Heinz Munz, president of EKO USA, based in Jackson, Wyo., and affiliated with a company in Europe with more than 200 engineers.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has proposed several diversions to protect Fargo-Moorhead against a 500-year flood, determined that levees can only protect against a 100-year flood.
“This got ruled out when the levee plans were ruled out,” said Aaron Snyder, a corps spokesman, who said levees were not shown to be cost-effective as a means to protect against a 500-year flood.
A group of local officials working on permanent flood protection has ruled out 100-year plans, and is seeking a 500-year solution.
But Munz said a diversion channel, which would require crossing tributaries, would provoke intense opposition from environmentalists that could drag on for years, leaving the cities unprotected.
EKO representatives have outlined their proposal to officials from the corps as well as the cities of Fargo and Moorhead.
“It’s only going to get you so much protection,” said Mark Bittner, city engineer for Fargo. “That’s why we haven’t looked at it seriously.”
Although “not heading down that road right now,” the cities might look to floodwalls if a diversion plan doesn’t materialize, he said.
“There may be specific locations where a floodwall would be fine,” Williams said. “It may be another tool in the toolbox.”
Because so many vendors have been approaching the cities, leaders are working on bringing them in to demonstrate their solutions.
Proposals include innovations in filling sandbags, a machine that makes and places long tubes of sand, and tubes that can be filled with water to form temporary flood barriers.
“They’ve been coming out of the woodwork since 2009,” said Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker. Officials want to see actual demonstrations in order to review a solution’s effectiveness.
“We need a test,” Walaker said. “We can’t buy anything just based on video.”
Sandbags and earthen levees have been proven effective through years of use, he said.
Still, the cities of Fargo and Moorhead are open to experimentation. For instance, Hesco boxes, which are filled with sand, were used for the first time last year in Fargo, with mixed success, Bittner said.
Brent Whitley, general manager of Conveyor Application Systems, an Oregon company that has a machine that makes flood barriers out of sand tubes, said the firm is interested in demonstrating its technology, if it is invited and can work out logistics.
Similarly, EKO is considering coming to Fargo-Moorhead to show the public its permanent flood protection proposal. The company claims the system has been used in more than 70 projects in Europe over the past 20 years, with no failures.
“It would be in both communities’ interest to have a backup plan, one that’s workable and doable,” said Wayne Flittner, EKO’s marketing director.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522