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Helmut Schmidt, Published March 05 2010

Downstream residents nervous about proposed diversion effects

Representatives of downstream cities sounded off Thursday on plans to build a Red River diversion channel to protect Fargo-Moorhead.

The Metro Flood Study Work Group was also told that mitigating higher Red River levels downstream could cost $35 million to $750 million.

In addition, the group was told a small diversion northwest of Fargo – an option that could keep that area dry if a Minnesota diversion is chosen – has a price tag that ranges from $165 million to $245 million.

The Army Corps of Engineers estimates an F-M diversion could raise river levels 3.6 inches to 10.4 inches for Halstad, Hendrum, Perley and Georgetown, Minn.

To protect against that, representatives of Houston Engineering and Moore Engineering said raising farmstead and town ring dikes, and buying homes that can’t be protected in those areas, would cost

$35 million to $45 million.

The other option, buying land to hold water upstream, has an eye-popping $500 million to $750 million price tag, they estimate.

Perley, Hendrum, Halstad and Shelly, Minn., are now working on projects to protect against 2009 flood levels, said Jerry Benson of Houston Engineering.

Benson said raising floodwaters a foot would require raising levees and, in some cases, roads, to keep cities from being cut off.

Georgetown Mayor Traci Goble warned that her city could lose 16 homes if water levels got two feet higher during floods.

“So keep that in mind when you do this,” she told the metro group.

Hendrum Mayor Curt Johannsen said it’s not just downstream cities, but farms that will be threatened by higher water. He added that Minnesota might not pay for another round of raising levees.

“If you give us more water … we will be doing this all over again,” Johannsen said. “I don’t believe we should save one (the metro), and sacrifice the other.”

Because the Minnesota diversion channels being considered don’t protect land northwest of Fargo from flooding, the work group’s consulting engineers have priced a diversion channel for that area as a potential add-on project.

The engineers said a project that would protect to a 50-year flood level would cost $165 million, while 500-year protection would cost $245 million.

The land northwest of the metro would be protected by a North Dakota diversion.

In other business, the flood work group will:

  • Take public input 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday on the Minnesota or North Dakota diversion plans being considered.

  • Create a finance subcommittee to verify how much money is available for the project from the cities, counties, watershed districts and states.

    The group must have a decision in time for elected officials from Fargo, Moorhead, Cass and Clay counties to vote on the plan and have the result to the corps by April 15.

    Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583