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Fargo-Moorhead Diversion will create wetland near Horace while keeping metro dry

The 160-acre wetland will be built along Drain 27, which drains part of south Fargo, east of Horace.

A man in a button-down shirt and ball cap points
Claude Richard talks about the diversion angle as it will take over his family farmstead near Horace.
David Samson / The Forum
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HORACE — The Red River Valley has been extensively drained in order to dry off farmland and urban areas after heavy rains or floods. As a result, many wetlands were destroyed.

In the upper Red River basin, which includes Fargo-Moorhead, wetlands account for only 3% of land, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.

A new wetland will be built east of Horace as part of the $3.2 billion diversion, the massive flood-control project to protect the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area. The wetland is intended to mitigate the environmental disruptions caused by the sprawling project, which includes a channel 30 miles long, a 20-mile earthen embankment, and 19 bridges.

“With a project this large, you can’t avoid all wetlands,” said Derek Ingvalson, a biologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps of Engineers will oversee construction of a wetland east of Horace that will involve restoration of a historic wetland in an area that will be subject to frequent flooding along Drain 27, which drains an area of south Fargo.

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“It looks like it was a historic wetland at one time,” drained for agriculture, Ingvalson said. “When the project operates, this area will be inundated.” Engineers estimate the diversion project will operate on average once every 20 years.

The Corps has awarded a $4.2 million contract to HSG Park Joint Venture of Harvey, North Dakota, to build the wetland.

The wetland is intended to mitigate the effects of the 20-mile embankment, the west end of which will be located nearby, Ingvalson said.

More about the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion project
Officials gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony for the 30-mile diversion channel that is an integral part of the $3.2 billion metro flood diversion project.

The project will require some excavation but will primarily involve building a small weir to pond water.

To build the wetland, 320 acres of land is being acquired. The actual wetland will be about 150 acres, with the rest as upland buffer space and for native vegetation, Ingvalson said. The native vegetation will be planted with several seed mixes next construction season.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” he said.

Wetlands improve water quality, soil quality and provide wildlife habitat, Ingvalson said. The area will be monitored for up to five years to ensure it meets mitigation requirements, and the biota will be studied.

“That establishment will probably take a few years to unfold,” Ingvalson said, referring to plant establishment. “So it’s probably a few years before the benefits are fully realized.”

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So far, there are no plans for recreational amenities, including a trail, but there is interest, he said.

“This is just a real unique partnership,” he said. Other partners in the wetland project include the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, North Dakota Department of Water Resources, North Dakota Department of Game and Fish and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wetland banks have been established elsewhere in eastern North Dakota, including one near Grand Forks. “Nothing this close to the Fargo-Moorhead community,” Ingvalson said.

When complete, the wetland will require closing sections of 57th Street and 112th Avenue. Traffic will be diverted to nearby roads.

The wetland and road closures require the Cass County Joint Water Resource District to acquire needed land.

In another environmental mitigation associated with the diversion project, the Corps of Engineers also awarded HSG Park Joint Venture a $7.7 million contract to build a fish passage downstream on the Red River at the Drayton Dam, 60 miles north of Grand Forks.

Drayton Dam is the last dam on the Red River to be improved for fish passage. The project includes removing the existing Drayton Dam and building a new dam 300 feet upstream that will include a rock rapids fishway.

Wetland restoration area.jpg

Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address: pspringer@forumcomm.com
Phone: 701-367-5294
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