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Erik Burgess, Published April 01 2013

Oak Creek rep says neighborhood willing to sandbag again

FARGO – City leaders here will try to avoid demolishing homes in the flood-prone Oak Creek neighborhood as residents there indicate they’re willing to sandbag if a major spring flood hits.

The city has at its disposal a $207,900 bid to demolish up to eight city-owned homes in the south Fargo neighborhood and install an emergency earthen levee, but city commissioners on Monday night said they won’t pull the trigger just yet after hearing from a neighborhood representative that they are willing to throw sandbags one last time.

“We can do that in short order, not that I like it any more than anybody else,” said Gary Cavett, who has lived on Oak Creek Drive for 20 years. “If we do it this year, I want this to be the last year.”

Cavett said he was speaking for both the Oak Creek and Copperfield Court neighborhoods. He said the “knee-jerk reaction” of tearing down homes now would be a serious permanent detriment to the quality of the neighborhoods and would result in lost tax base for the city.

The commission voted unanimously to extend the bid 30 days past when it was received, which was March 27, and said they would look more seriously at demolishing if the city got into “disaster mode,” around a 41-foot river.

“If you’re willing to sandbag with us, I think we should look at some options,” Mayor Dennis Walaker said. “I don’t like the idea of taking these homes down.”

Walaker said he’d like to see permanent flood protection installed in Oak Creek like what nearby Timberline has.

Demolishing would save on sandbags. At 40 feet of protection, the area is responsible for 25 percent of the city’s sandbagging efforts, said City Engineer April Walker.

The demolition and emergency levee building process would take about five days, said City Administrator Pat Zavoral. Backyards there flood at a 38-foot river level, he said.

In its latest forecast, the National Weather Service said there is a 50 percent chance the Red River in Fargo will hit 38.1 feet this spring.

The homes were going to be auctioned and moved, but that would require cutting down hundreds of trees or splitting the houses into smaller sections so they could be moved, Zavoral said.

In other business:

• The commission voted unanimously to approve the yard damage restoration program for the 2013 flood season. The submittal deadline for claims is June 30, and the program is similar to that used following the 2009, 2010 and 2011 floods.

Walker said most of the city’s yard restoration forms are turned in at neighborhood informational meetings, the first of which is today at Longfellow School for those living north of Main Avenue.

Residents who live between Main Avenue and 40th Avenue South meet Wednesday at Centennial School, and those living along drains and the remainder of the river meet Thursday at Centennial. All three meetings run from 6 to 9 p.m.

• Commissioners voted unanimously to have staff review a setback waiver for three properties along the river north of Fargo. The waiver was submitted by Highland Park Properties for 1513, 1509 and 1505 Highland Drive. City staff should be in front of the commission within 60 days with results.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518