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Dave Roepke, Published March 17 2010

Flood walls going up smoothly in rural Cass

Flood walls in rural Cass County started coming up in full force on Tuesday, as rural residents gave mostly rave reviews to the county for a smoother process of getting sandbags delivered.

“After last year, this is a walk in the park,” said Jeremy Mertes, who lives on Forest River Road.

Blocked in by clay levees built by Cass County, many in the neighborhood had an awful time trying to secure sand in 2009.

The bigger trouble Tuesday was getting cars out of the way so that semi trucks carrying filled bags from the county could get in the subdivision, Mertes said.

On Monday and Tuesday, county trucks gave about 75,000 filled bags to rural residents who live on the wet side of where Cass is putting levees, said Keith Berndt, county engineer.

Nearly 400,000 unfilled bags were given away at the highway department building, where the county provided free sandbagging materials to residents who live near levees or are protecting infrastructure.

Berndt said construction of the clay levee south of the Round Hill area was wrapping up Tuesday, and crews should start early this morning on the levee in the Forest River area.

Cass should be able to start building the levee in the Chrisan neighborhood by late today, and work on the levees for the North River and Stockman areas north of Fargo should also wrap up today, he said.

A county-run volunteer center meant to direct help to rural subdivisions was not going as well Tuesday.

Chip Ammerman, who was running the operation at the Urban Plains Center, said though the goal was to get 300 volunteers, there were fewer than 100.

Ammerman said it will be critical to get additional volunteer help today – 200 or 300 would be ideal.

For areas south of Fargo, the crest typically hits a day or two ahead of what’s forecast for the city. With projections calling for the Red River to crest on Sunday at about 38 feet, southern subdivisions will need to be ready to go by the end of the day Thursday.

Marv Yonke was one of the residents hoping for more manpower. He had a crew of fewer than 10 around the noon hour at his house on Forest River Road.

“When you get 20 to 30 people, it goes a lot faster,” he said. “When you don’t, it’s really, really hard.”

Other areas had lots of help from area schools that let students out to pitch in.

In Briarwood, a city just south of Fargo, students from Oak Grove and Concordia College were filling some of the 8,000 sandbags Cheri Schoenfish figures it will take for her dike.

Schoenfish said they plan to start actually building the wall today. But she did not want any extra time.

“If it’s going to be 38, we’d rather it be sooner,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535