Fargo Moorhead flood diversion moves forward
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking one final round of public comments on a proposed $1.8 billion 36 mile flood diversion project to protect Fargo Moorhead.
The comment period closes Nov. 7.
In December, the Corps of Engineers is expected to approve the project. That would set the stage for a challenging effort to convince Congress to commit some $800 million to the project.
The local share is a staggering $979 million. Minnesota's share of that is estimated to be around $350 million.
The Corps has pulled together an amazing amount of data in developing this project.
Some interesting tidbits: The Red River at Fargo Moorhead has exceeded flood stage every year since 1993.
In the Fargo Moorhead area, local governments have spent $342 million on permanent flood protection since 1990, including buying more than 500 homes in flood prone areas. Moorhead officials this week approved a new $37 million plan to do still more improvements. Even with all those improvements the communities are still susceptible to any flood a foot or two higher than the record flood of 2009.
The Corps estimates a catastrophic flood could cause up to $10 billion in damages.
The proposed diversion project will likely go to congress for authorization and funding early next year. Everyone agrees federal funding will be difficult. In fact, Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker gives the project a less than 50 percent chance of being built.
Fargo-Moorhead is located on the highest ground in the Red River Valley for miles. That's why that location was chosen by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1872 for its crossing of the valley and why those two towns exist.
Most of Moorhead lies above the 500 year flood plain, and the city has removed houses in low lying areas. Fargo, however, has exhausted its high ground and needs this project to develop low lying flood plain, in direct violation of Executive Order 11988, which bans the use of federal funds to develop flood prone areas.
Expecting Minnesota to pay $350 million for a project which provides nearly no benefits to Minnesota, and in fact would flood Minnesota land in order to protect Fargo's flood plain, is pure extortion.
This is a high risk project which attempts to cross five rivers with a diversion, which has never been done before, and would use levees, built on the weakest soils in the lower 48 states to act as a dam to hold back flood waters on prime farm land south of Fargo and Moorhead. Failure of those levees would result in our own Katrina moment.