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Dave Olson, Published January 08 2013

Ring levee discussion draws sizable crowd

FARGO – A public meeting to discuss a proposed ring levee for three communities south of Fargo drew a packed crowd to Fargo’s Bennett Elementary School on Tuesday night.

Oxbow, Bakke and Hickson are located in an area that would be used to store water if a flood diversion is constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a project that is still waiting for congressional authorization.

The Flood Diversion Authority has said it would build a ring levee for the communities if residents chose that option and the offer is good whether or not a diversion is ever built, ensuring 500-year flood protection for the area.

If a ring levee is not chosen, another option for residents would be buyouts that follow federal timelines, which currently anticipate no buyouts before 2018.

Steve Losing, a resident of Oxbow who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said he believes there are additional possibilities that have yet to be considered, but he added he was willing to look at all options.

“I don’t think anybody wants to destroy the communities,” said Losing.

“Here’s the crazy thing,” he added. “We’ve never sandbagged; our house has always been high enough.

“I bought this lot after the ’97 flood because it didn’t flood and never flooded in 2009,” Losing said.

Marcus and Deb Larson, who live in Bakke, said they believe additional options should be possible, including revamping current diversion plans to reduce the need for dams now incorporated in the design.

“There are just ways it could be done better,” Marcus Larson said.

Corps officials said it will be up to community members to decide whether they want to be protected by a levee. Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof said decision time for residents will likely be in May.

Corps and Diversion Authority officials said that if a levee is built:

“We do encourage people to buy flood insurance, even if you feel you’re protected to a very high level,” said Mark Bittner, Fargo’s director of engineering.

Officials said if residents endorse a ring levee, construction could start in 2014.

The work would probably take three years to complete, officials said.

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

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