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Erik Burgess, Published April 18 2013

Cass officials could ask for 200,000 more bags

FARGO – Cass County officials could decide early next week whether to call on volunteers to fill up to 200,000 more sandbags after they received news that a flood of record is a growing possibility this spring.

County staff met Thursday morning to discuss the new flood outlook released Wednesday by the National Weather Service, which said that a late melt and added moisture from snowfall could cause the Red River in Fargo to crest between 38 and 42 feet. Fargo now faces a 40 percent chance of seeing a record flood.

Fargo and county officials decided earlier this week to reopen Sandbag Central on Thursday and prepare for a higher river crest. The city plans to make at least 500,000 more bags.

At a 41-foot river level, some homes in the county cannot be saved, said Cass County Administrator Keith Berndt.

He said the county isn’t in “too bad of shape” with the 500,000 sandbags it made during the first run of Sandbag Central in Fargo, but county leaders decided Thursday that up to 200,000 more could be needed.

The county will decide how many more bags it wants, if any, by early next week, Berndt said.

“We’re still hoping the weather service comes out with that deterministic forecast here in the next few days,” he said.

Work on temporary levees in the county will start Tuesday south of Fargo in the Chrisan subdivision, along 76th Avenue South and along 88th Avenue South to the east of 25th Street South, said County Engineer Jason Benson.

The county may also install TrapBags in Stockmans subdivision north of Fargo to tie off an already existing levee, said Tim Solberg, county planner.

The county has a plan to install TrapBag levees in the Highland Park subdivision north of Fargo if the river rises to about 36 feet, Solberg said, because after that point, the area is inaccessible.

Some improvement work will also be needed at some “low spots” in a permanent levee just south of the cul-de-sacs along 76th Avenue South, Solberg said, but then it will protect to 44 feet.

Other permanent levees installed after the 2009 and 2011 floods near Round Hill and Chrisan are built to 42 and 44 feet, county documents show.

Major construction of levees could occur along University Drive north of Chrisan and south of 76th Avenue South if the river heads toward 40 feet, county documents show.

Another major temporary levee is planned this spring along 25th Street South between 76th and 88th avenues south if the river heads toward 42 feet.

Berndt said the county has already started to deliver bags to some of the southern subdivisions.

“It’s been dragging on for so long, and people are pretty reluctant to start sandbagging,” Berndt said. “They’re hoping things change, but I think with what we’re hearing from the weather service now, people have to take it very serious.”


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