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Heidi Shaffer, Published January 31 2011

Fargo asks business community to help fill 3 million sandbags for spring flood fight

FARGO - Fargo is calling on the business community to help fill the estimated 3 million sandbags needed for this year’s flood fight.

The Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce is meeting with its members and encouraging businesses to donate 10 percent of its work force to volunteer in two-hour shifts once sandbag filling starts, said Craig Whitney, chamber president.

“Part of starting early is getting the word out and saying we’re going to be prepared so that we don’t have to go into a war mentality a week before this thing’s going to crest,” Whitney said.

Sandbag Central is scheduled to begin production on Feb. 14, and 200 volunteers are needed at any given time to keep the mechanical sandbag equipment operating at full capacity, said Bruce Grubb, Fargo director of solid waste.

The chamber and city have met with about seven companies, including Sanford Health, Eventide and Integrity Windows, and plan to hold meetings over the next week or so, Whitney said.

The chamber has 1,950 members with about 89,000 employees, he said.

“This is an economic thing,” Whitney said. “If the city is paralyzed or damaged, it’s bad for business especially for our small members.”

Businesses closed for more than a week during the spring 2009 flood, he said.

Fargo is building clay levees to 44 feet and sandbag dikes to 43 feet to protect against a 42 foot crest, which the National Weather service last week gave a better than 10 percent chance of occurring.

In 2009, the city used 3 million sandbags to get to 42 feet. Going a foot higher, as Fargo is doing this year, would have required 6 million sandbags, said City Administrator Pat Zavoral. Improvements since then have cut those needs in half, he said.

Students have played a large part in past flood fights, but it’s not realistic to ask schools to let kids out this far in advance, Zavoral said.

“If we do it far enough in advance and get the work force to devote 10 percent of their time, we can schedule that, get these things out the door, get them stored and then use the kids to deploy them,” he said.

How to help: Businesses interested in volunteering for sandbag filling can contact the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce at (218) 233-1100.

Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511