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Erik Burgess, Published April 18 2013

Oakcreek homes razed to make room for levee

FARGO – Oakcreek resident Stan Schulz was told before Thursday that his family could stay in their city-owned home even though the vacated homes of his former neighbors in the flood-prone neighborhood will soon be razed.

That changed when Schulz learned city leaders decided a worsening spring flood projection will force them to demolish his home, too.

Schulz sold his creekside home to the city last year, but unlike his other bought-out neighbors, Schulz and his family rented the home from the city and planned to live there until summer.

“It’s going to be obviously a lot of work for our family to leave on a very short notice,” said Schulz, who spoke to The Forum from out of town. He now needs to cut his trip short.

The city on Thursday began demolishing all eight city-owned homes along the drain in Oakcreek in order to install a temporary clay levee, a decision made Monday by a divided City Commission.

City officials said Tuesday that the home rented by Schulz and his wife would not be demolished and instead would be be protected by a temporary TrapBag levee.

That decision changed on Thursday after the National Weather Service said Wednesday that Fargo now has a 40 percent chance of seeing a flood of record this spring.

The levees in Oakcreek represent a primary line of defense for Fargo, and the city didn’t want to take a chance with only a TrapBag levee behind Schulz’s home, said City Engineer April Walker.

“It becomes harder and harder to have a reliable primary line in the backyard with the higher (river level) numbers,” she said.

Habitat for Humanity was in Oakcreek on Thursday salvaging pieces of the homes before they were demolished. The entire project, including building the levee, will take about seven days.

Schulz said the news wasn’t too surprising.

“We’ve been talking about this now for the better part of the last three or four weeks,” he said. “You know, it’s just one of those things in life you gotta deal with, and we’ll be fine.”

Schulz and his wife, who have two middle-school age children, are working on finding a new place to stay.

Walker said there is no set date for the Schulz family to leave, only that the city has asked that they make arrangements “as quickly as they can.”

The earth used to build the temporary levee in Oakcreek will stay after the flood and be reused in a permanent levee, Walker said. The neighborhood has required a heavy sandbagging effort in previous flood fights, she said.

The city’s long-range plan for Oakcreek and nearby Copperfield Court includes buying out and removing all 18 homes along the creek and installing a permanent earthen dike.

For the flood fight this year, other temporary levees on Oak Street North and Lindenwood Drive will be installed beginning Monday, Walker said.

A two-day sandbag deployment will start Tuesday. The city will call upon volunteers Thursday to start placing bags, Walker said, a process that could go into the following week.

Fargo also encourages residents who live along primary levees and drains to submit right-of-entry consent forms, which allows the city and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to construct and remove temporary flood protection structures. The forms can be found at www.cityoffargo.com/flood or by calling (701) 241-1545.

Flood fighting timeline

Monday: Temporary levees installed on Oak Street and Lindenwood Drive in Fargo.

Tuesday: Two-day sandbag deployment process begins in the city of Fargo. Cass County begins installing some temporary levees.

Thursday: Fargo calls on students and other volunteers to begin laying sandbags.

Source: Cass County and Fargo officials

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