Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority
Original Publication Date: September 13th, 2012
Republished with persmission from:
The new 100 year FEMA flood level is 39.4 feet at the Fargo gage. Last month Fargo’s engineers and mayor announced plans to build levees to protect Fargo to 42.5 feet. The cost to reach that level of protection is estimated to be 247 million dollars. The protection is expected to be in place by 2016, time enough to save Fargo homeowners the additional flood insurance premiums required by the higher flood plain. This level of protection would exceed the level of the highest flood on record, the 2009 flood that peaked at 40.8 feet, by 20 inches. Moorhead is presently protected to 44 feet.
Fargo should not be content only with levees. The Red River Basin Commission (RRBC) has spent millions of dollars of public monies conducting years of meticulous study of the Red River basin. The RRBC engineers have determined that reasonable retention projects on the branch rivers flowing into the Red could provide significant protection. Once their proposed retention projects south of Fargo are completed the peak flows of the Red could be reduced by more than two feet. The advantage of the RRBC plan is that the whole Red River Valley would benefit, not just Fargo. Had the planned levees and proposed retention been in place for the 2009 event the Red River would have crested at around 39 feet and Fargo would have been protected to 42.5 feet. A future flood event that would presently be 44 feet would, after the retention is built, not even top the levees. This is a reasonable and affordable proposal. The Red River Basin Commission Plan has the support of Rep. Colin Pederson and Senator Hoeven and already enjoys federal funding. Additional funding for this retention project is built into the proposed Farm Bill.
So why does Fargo insist on a Dam and 54,000 acre reservoir? Implementation of the Red River Basin Plan would allow for construction of the diversion without the destructive dam and reservoir. But Fargo leaders want flood protection that will promote Fargo’s future growth at the expense of their neighbors. They have said so publically and in the materials published by the Army Corps. A simple affordable protection plan with levees, retention, and even a diversion will provide protection for Fargo. It is not necessary to destroy the communities to the south with 54,000 acres of land (80 square miles) dam and reservoir just so Fargo can develop the 40 square miles of flood plain south of Davies High School.