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Forum editorial: F-M flood progress impressive

The work has become so routine, so ubiquitous that residents of the Fargo-Moorhead area take it for granted. Flood protection projects, that is.

As steady progress is made on the much-needed F-M diversion project, efforts to shore up flood protection by less dramatic means have accelerated since the big Red River flood of 1997. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent, and the results on both sides of the river are impressive.

Moorhead is nearly done with a multiyear initiative to build a system of levees that was prompted by the near disaster of the 2009 flood. Since then, the city has doggedly pursued funding for levees and associated work that will protect most of Moorhead from all but a flood of unprecedented proportions. (That will happen one day, as the geologic record confirms.)

Fargo cranked up its flood protection projects after 1997. The pace accelerated after 2009 and has not slowed. Hundreds of homes in the immediate river floodplain have been bought out. Major drains have been widened and deepened. The city has more floodwater holding ponds and massive pumps than ever before. Building codes have been amended so that structures in potentially

at-risk districts must be raised above flood-risk elevations. Work continues to strengthen levees, add floodwalls and clear as much of the river floodplain as is possible and practical in a densely developed urban center.

Add the focused work of Clay and Cass counties, and the region is better protected from high water than any time in its history.

It’s not enough, of course, because the “big one” is still out there. Just ask the residents of Grand Forks and Minot, who understand that it takes only one failure of flood protection to cripple a city. That’s what the diversion is all about: preparing for that kind of flood.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.