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Dave Olson, Published April 29 2013

Floodwalls would eliminate Second Street dike tradition

FARGO – With the latest flood prediction for Fargo-Moorhead calling for a Red River crest of 35.5 feet by Wednesday, many spots in the metro area don’t need clay dikes and sandbags.

Second Street North in Fargo near City Hall, however, becomes wet at a river stage of about 30 feet, and this spring, as in many springs before, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has constructed a dike on the road to protect parts of downtown.

But a proposed project the city of Fargo is studying would usually prevent the frequent construction of the Second Street levee.

Depending on how large the dike is built and the cost of materials and fuel, the price tag in a given year may range from $100,000 on the low end to as much as $250,000, with the typical cost usually somewhere in between, according to Tim Bertschi, corps engineer.

For the city, which is responsible for taking down the dikes, the average cost of dismantling the half-mile dike is about $160,000, according to April Walker, city engineer.

In November, the city unveiled a $24 million plan to build floodwalls in the area of Second Street North. If pursued, the project would involve shifting Second Street a bit to the west and require the acquisition of the Sidestreet Grille and Pub.

The top of the floodwalls would be at 45 feet, according to Walker. That’s more than 4 feet higher than the record 2009 crest of 40.84 feet.

Fargo is waiting to hear whether it will receive funding for the project from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which could cover perhaps 75 percent of the cost.

If Fargo does not get a FEMA grant, the city has said it would seek to have the project included in the $1.8 billion diversion project proposed for the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Earlier this year, the Fargo City Commission approved a study to look into the feasibility of modifying the Second Street floodwall project to include the idea of a floodwall that could be buried, creating a segment of tunnel for Second Street above which green space could be created.

Fargo is waiting for the results of soil testing to determine whether the alternative is even possible before it looks at calling for designs, Walker said.

She said a tunnel option would likely raise the price of a floodwall project above the $24 million cost associated with the plan that was unveiled last fall.

When it comes to the clay dikes built on Second Street North, a corps engineer said the structures are considered a form of emergency flood-fighting and as such they represent a risk.

“There’s always seepage,” said Bertschi, who added that as far as the corps is concerned, a temporary dike “is not their preferred method of flood protection.”

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