High water in Fargoby Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
Crews are working on a temporary levee along the Red River in downtown Fargo. The rising river is expected to crest about 16 feet above flood stage on Friday. City officials say no homes are in danger of flooding, but they're keeping an eye on the sky for the next week or so.
Moorhead, Minn. — About a block from Fargo city hall, trucks are dumping loads of clay while a bulldozer levels and packs the sticky dirt.
Crews are also building a levee in north Fargo to protect a baseball field, and volunteers sandbagged around the mainstage of the Trollwood Performing Arts School this morning.
The main damage from the high water will be to parks and golf courses, according to City Administrator Pat Zavoral.
"That's to be expected when you have green spaces along the river," he says. "Unfortunately, they've been developed to a point where when we have summertime floods, if the water stays on them for more than three or four days the grass dies and you have to reseed afterwards."
After the record flood of 1997, homes near the river were purchased in both Fargo and Moorhead. That significantly reduced the workload when the river spills out of its banks. Much of Moorhead is well protected by higher river banks and levees.
Pat Zavoral says Fargo doesn't anticipate using many sandbags for this flood.
"After the '97 flood we purchased 89 homes, all of them in the 30 to 34-foot flooding range," Zavoral says. "We have one home in the Ridgewood neighborhood that's got a walkout basement. That owner is taking quite a few precautions."
Fargo officials want to build a flood wall in the downtown area so temporary levees aren't needed every time the river floods.
Mayor Dennis Walaker says it's hard to get the $16 million project funded. He's frustrated because Fargo and Moorhead were the only major cities along the Red River to escape major damage in 1997.
"Do you have to fail to get significant federal funding?" Walaker asks. "Wahpeton got significant funding, Breckenridge got significant funding, Grand Forks got the world. There doesn't seem to be a lot of compensation for people that are successful, and that kind of hurts right now."
The Red River has been above flood stage most of the spring. Walaker says it's clear meticulous drainage of thousands of acres of farmland is contributing to flooding. But he says there's no good solution.
"To criticize a farmer for draining his land for more production, that's a pretty long leap," Walaker says. "Why should he hold water that's going to protect Fargo without compensation? Would I do the same thing? Probably. It's human nature. There's no good guys and bad guys in all of this, but we need some more retention."
More rain is in the forecast for this week. The National Weather Service says it doesn't expect the river to go higher. But it might stay high longer, which has city officials worrying about how much rain might come next week.