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Dave Olson, Published September 25 2010

Leaving Rivershore Drive: Moorhead couple selling belongings as neighborhood empties

Roger and Barbara Sipson are letting go of their home and much more.

After 16 years at 2503 Rivershore Drive in south Moorhead, the Sipsons are selling their home to the city and saying goodbye to neighbors who have come to seem like family.

“The thing is, nobody who lived here really wanted to leave the river,” Barbara Sipson said.

“It was very traumatic for everybody to make that decision because we all loved it here,” Sipson said as she and her husband, Roger, prepared their house for a “living estate” sale that concludes at 4 p.m. today.

The downsizing was necessary, she said, because they are giving up a three-bedroom house and a garage for a “two-bedroom condo with no storage.”

The couple will stay in Moorhead, but said they will miss Rivershore Drive’s proximity to nature and human conveniences.

“On the other side of the river is Lindenwood Park. A block away is Sunmart,” Roger Sipson said.

Levee planned

Their household is one of 17 on Rivershore Drive between the Interstate 94 bridge and 24th Avenue South that recently accepted flood buyout offers from the city.

Five homes, most of them bunched near the interstate, did not accept buyout offers, said Tom Trowbridge, assistant city engineer.

But enough homes were sold to make it possible for the city to build a dike once the purchased homes are removed, Trowbridge said.

The city has approached 12 households between 24th and 22nd avenues regarding buyouts. Four have accepted offers and six are considering selling.

If enough homes are purchased in that area, the dike the city plans to build next year could extend from I-94 to Gooseberry Park and perhaps beyond to 20th Avenue south, Trowbridge said.

If heavy flooding occurs, the city will work with homeowners who decide not to sell to make sure they are protected, Trowbridge said.

The increasing magnitude and frequency of Red River floods convinced many to accept buyout offers, the Sipsons said.

“The ’09 flood, that’s what made everybody a little more realistic,” Barbara Sipson said. Homeowners began to realize the salability of their properties would be affected, she said.

For Helen and Richard Pemble, weariness was a factor in deciding to leave.

“The only option we have is to sandbag year after year. I’m 69 years old and I can’t keep doing this,” said Richard Pemble, whose home flooded in 1997 and in 2009.

Achilles’ heel

Although the Pembles’ home sits relatively high, the house, like many in the area, has an Achilles’ heel – a walk-out basement.

During the 2010 flood, protecting homes between I-94 and 22nd Avenue South required about 16 percent of all sandbags used in the city, Trowbridge said.

Richard Pemble said his house has used as many as 3,000 sandbags, while a neighbor’s house has used as many as 12,000.

At an estimated $2.50 a bag, the cost can be high.

“You’re looking at $25,000 just to protect a house on a temporary basis, which at this point is coming out of the taxpayer’s pocket,” Richard Pemble said. “You look at it from that perspective and you say, ‘We can’t keep doing this.’ ’’

Things are reaching a point where community volunteers are growing tired of pitching in, he said.

“It (flooding) has gotten to be much too frequent,” Pemble said.

Helen Pemble said giving up the home they have lived in since 1986 makes her sad.

“We did not plan on doing this,” she said.

Despite her melancholy over moving, she believes something good may come from it.

Helen Pemble said she has always thought there should be walking trails along the river and she said the hill behind their home is a natural for sledding.

She said with the houses gone, “It will be a nice big green space and a hill for the whole town to use.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555