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Helmut Schmidt, Published March 18 2010

Surveys of valley please Fargo officials

Fargo officials liked what they saw in air and ground surveys Wednesday of flooding south of the city.

“I’m feeling very good,” Mayor Dennis Walaker said. “There’s a lot of areas that are clean and drained off.”

Walaker spent four hours on the road, driving to Lake Traverse and the White Rock Dam, which is holding water in that area.

“Overall, things look pretty good down there. There is some water, but not as bad as in the past,” Walaker said.

He said he’d be surprised if the Red crests Sunday at 38 feet as predicted by the National Weather Service.

City Administrator Pat Zavoral and Commissioner Tim Mahoney took the aerial route.

“It looked good. There’s not as much water as we thought,” Mahoney said.

Zavoral said this year’s floodwaters are mostly staying in the river, with few breakouts so far.

“Last year we saw water as far west as Davenport. That meant both the Sheyenne and Wild Rice were full,” he said.

Cooler weather ahead should slow the melt and help curb breakouts, Zavoral said.

“All of it seems to be coming together quite well,” he said.

The Red was at 32.11 feet in Fargo at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Mahoney said surveys of Fargo’s dikes and levees showed “good progress” Wednesday.

He said most levees are complete, though there is work to be done in Timberline and a few other areas.

Other than some clay levees that won’t be done until Friday, “I think by 2 o’clock (today), we’ll have everything tucked in,” Mahoney said.

Again, area youths kept the sandbagging in high gear. More than 1,600 high school and middle-school students volunteered to fill bags and build dikes.

Walaker and Mahoney credit weeks of planning, based on lessons learned in 2009’s frantic flood fight, with making this year’s flood seem almost routine.

Right now, the worries are about the Sheyenne River, which could back up and flood overland as it tries to flow into the swollen Red.

In 2009, that overland flooding had people boating to and from their homes for six weeks in some spots, particularly north of Fargo, Walaker said.

Mahoney said another good day from volunteers is still needed.

“Stand up and be counted. Get it done,” he said.

Sandbag production at the city’s garbage utility building, dubbed “Sandbag Central,” shut down Wednesday after the city finished making 1 million sandbags. About 250,000 bags are held in reserve.

Because sandbagging went so well, Mahoney said cul-de-sac sandbagging kits would be removed from drop points.

Walaker reminded residents of flood-threatened neighborhoods that they have a responsibility to help monitor the levees to be sure breaches don’t become unmanageable.

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