FARGO — Twenty-two miles of permanent flood protection barriers have been built along the Red River in Fargo since the record 2009 flood that required six million sandbags to hold back.
The city has been working steadily over the past decade to improve its flood defenses, in concert with the planned $2.75 billion metro flood diversion project.
In 2009, the city had to scramble to build 47 miles of emergency levees, city leaders were told on Monday, Jan. 27. The construction of 22 miles of protection, at a cost of $295 million, means only 1 million sandbags would be required if the city were to face a flood comparable to 2009, which reached 40.84 feet.
"You're moving ahead, you're doing a great job," Mayor Tim Mahoney told Nathan Boerboom, a city engineer who oversees flood projects. "You're getting this whittled down, whittled down, whittled down."
The diversion project, which includes a channel to divert some Red River flows during extreme floods, still requires a significant system of levees and floodwalls.
Since 2009, 247 flood-prone properties — more than 380 since 1990 — have been acquired by the city, eliminating the need for protection in many low-lying areas. Eighteen properties remain on the buyout list, Boerboom said.
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The city is still working to build levees or flood walls to protect areas along the river in neighborhoods including Belmont, Harwood, Hackberry and River Drives, all in south Fargo. In north Fargo, levees are planned near 40th Avenue North and Hector International Airport, Riverwood, Royal Oaks, Woodcrest and Elm Circle.
The north Fargo projects carry a total estimated construction cost of $23.9 million, down from $25.1 million estimated in July 2018.
Also Monday, officials from state and federal agencies met with the public for a flood preparedness meeting at Fargo Cass Public Health. Last week, the National Weather Service issued its initial spring flood outlook, which predicted a 50% probability of a 35.9-foot crest, 25% chance of a 37.6-foot flood, 10% chance of a 39.6 foot flood and 5% chance of a 40.6-foot flood.
In the face of a possible top-five record flood, state and federal officials urged property owners to start preparing for a major flood, including purchasing flood insurance. Flood insurance generally has to be purchased 30 days before it can take effect.
"Let's not wait until February to see how much snow we get," said Matthew Buddie of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the Federal Flood Insurance Program.
One inch of water can cause $25,000 in damage, he said. The average flood insurance claim is $69,000, and many claims are filed by property owners outside the floodplain.
For more information on flood insurance, go online to www.floodsmart.gov or call 1-800-427-4661.
Fargo property owners can go online to fargond.gov and enter "flood map" in the search box to find the elevation and flood risk for their property.
The North Dakota Department of Emergency Services has a "one-stop shop" of information about flooding and preparations to mitigate flood risk. The website, ndresponse.gov, includes links to the National Flood Insurance Program and North Dakota Risk Assessment Map services, which show flood risks for properties statewide.