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Published March 29 2014

Forum editorial: Sandbag central is quiet

Listen. That sound you don’t hear is the rumble of big trucks carrying sandbags into the neighborhoods of Fargo and Moorhead. That sound you don’t hear is the roar of bulldozers building an earthen dike on downtown Fargo’s Second Street. That sound you don’t hear is the early morning briefing from grim city officials about preparations for a flood crest on the Red River. That sound you don’t hear is the urgent call for volunteers to go to work at “sandbag central.”

For the first time in many years, sandbag central is quiet. It’s a beautiful non-sound. Five years after a modern-day record crest on the river (near 41 feet on March 28, 2009), the Red also is quiet, and there are no projections the river will rise to anything near a threatening flood stage. Last year at this time, the flood outlook was different. The region prepared, but the Red and its tributaries did not rise to levels initially feared. The 2013 non-flood in Fargo-Moorhead was a good thing.

So, relax, right? No, never.

The river’s history leaves no room for apathy. The long-term behavior of the river is the best possible lesson that permanent flood control is the only way to ensure that when a big flood comes again – and it surely will – Fargo, Moorhead and immediate environs will not go under. Anyone who does not grasp the history of flooding or understand obvious remedies is either dumb as a plank or chooses not to accept reality.

Finally, a reminder. F-M’s flood fighting protocols have been honed to an ever-evolving science. It’s been a methodical process that accelerated after the flood of 1997 that inundated and destroyed much of Grand Forks. Fargo was damaged that year, but not destroyed. The knowledge-based flood protection measures that have been put in place since then have kept the city dry. But the city is protected only to an elevation allowed by the hydrology and geology of the metro. Levees can only be built so high. It’s been a remarkable accomplishment. But it must never be forgotten – even as the river stays in its banks this spring – that permanent protection from a really big flood has yet to be achieved.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.