Fargo-Moorhead plans ahead for second crest of the Red Riverby Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio
Water levels on the Red River have gone down for the past week, but soon the river will begin to rise again and reach a second, potentially record-breaking crest in mid-April. Over the weekend, crews in Moorhead began work on more contingency dikes to prepare.
Moorhead, Minn. — The city of Moorhead already has nearly seven miles of clay levees and close to 10 miles of sandbag dikes to protect against floodwater. Now, the Army Corp of Engineers is adding to that.
"It's not that we don't trust the dikes that are there, we do," said Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland.
"But it's always the case of, we want to minimize any damage if we have any breach in a dike... We want to be prepared as much as we can for that secondary problem that could occur" the mayor added. "Luckily nothing happened the first time. Hopefully nothing happens this time, but we want to be prepared."
Voxland says more secondary dikes are going up because there's time to do it.
Late last week, the National Weather Service came out with an outlook that shows a 75 percent chance the Red River will crest at 41 feet or higher. Weather officials say there's a one in four chance the river could reach nearly 43 feet or higher.
Compare that to last week's new record high water mark of 40.8 feet.
So now, the city's goal is to raise levees and dikes to 43-and-a-half to 44 feet, where it's possible.
There's a window of opportunity now, according to Moorhead City engineer Bob Zimmerman, that will allow them to get a lot of work done.
"The river is going to continue to recede to about 30 feet on Saturday, at which point it will start to rise again, with the crest projected somewhere in the April 15th to April 22nd time frame," Zimmerman said. "It provides a window of about seven to 10 days to take some additional precautionary measures, given the uncertainty in the forecast numbers."
In some parts of the city, engineers are planning to build a third line of protection.
Later this week, the Minnesota Department of Transportation will help to build additional clay dikes along Eighth St., the main north-south corridor nearest to the Red River.
City crews in Moorhead have begun re-inspecting the miles of sandbag dikes that are the first line of defense, right along the Red River.
The goal is to make sure those dikes have maintained their integrity and that they're still high enough to do the job.
"With the ground thawing, there will be some slumping of those bags, and they might lose an inch or two as those bags start to settle a little bit," said City Manager Mike Redlinger.
"They've been there a long time. They've had water on them once. They will have water on them again, and so that's why we need to make sure that they're good to go, because that's our primary line of defense."
City leaders encouraged people to take a break over the weekend. Mayor Mark Voxland says now, as the city gears up for the second crest, the psychological stress on people is likely to return.
"Everybody for the last week has been saying, 'We beat this thing, it's great.' And now all of the sudden they're ramping up, and I know personally what my feeling has been," Voxland said. "I know that I'm going back into this really tense environment that I don't want to go back into. I really don't. But I know that I don't have a choice."
The new dikes going up in Moorhead are only about two feet high. They're not expected to block traffic into neighborhoods along the river.
But people living closest to the river won't have access to their driveways. Those residents are being asked to move their cars further away from the river.
- All Things Considered, 04/06/2009, 5:24 p.m.