In their latest spring flood outlook issued Thursday, the National Weather Service (NWS) in Grand Forks, N.D. said there is now a 50% chance the Red River could top 38 feet in Fargo, N.D. and Moorhead, Minn., placing it among the top 5 floods all-time, there.  Flood stage is 18 feet.

Fargo’s Top 5 Floods on Record
1) Mar. 28, 2009 (40.84′)
2) Apr. 18, 1997 (39.72′)
3) Apr. 7, 1897 (39.10′)
4) Apr. 9, 2011 (38.81′)
5) Apr. 15, 1969 (37.34′)

Of course, this area is all too familiar with major floods in recent years.  In Fargo, five of the seven highest crests of record on the Red River have occurred since 1997, including the Mar. 28, 2009 record crest (40.84′).  Incredibly, virtually the entire Red River Valley is in at least moderate (or severe) drought as of March 19.

Why is the flood threat so high?  There’s the impressive snowpack.  As of Thursday morning, March 21, both Fargo (20″) and Grand Forks (13″) had at least one foot of snow on the ground.  Each city has picked up more than double their average month-to-date snowfall.  Also, because the ground is still froze, any spring rains or a quick snow melt will spread across the land and cause wide-spread flooding.

The above news report is probably very worrisome to residents living along side the Red River and almost every year the city of Fargo is faced with some level of flooding.  For those not familiar with the area here are some facts:

The Red River of the North is a North American river, originating at the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail rivers between the U.S. states of Minnesota and North Dakota, it flows northward through the Red River Valley, forming the border of Minnesota and North Dakota and continuing into Manitoba, Canada. It empties into Lake Winnipeg, whose waters join the Nelson River and ultimately flow into the Hudson Bay.

The Red River flows through several urban areas along its path, including those of Fargo-Moorhead and Grand Forks in the United States and Winnipeg in Canada. The Red is about 885 kilometers (550 mi) long, of which about 635 kilometers (395 mi) are in the United States and about 255 kilometers (158 mi) are in Canada.  The river falls 70 metres (230 ft) on its trip to Lake Winnipeg where it spreads into the vast deltaic wetland known as Netley Marsh.  The other thing to be aware of is that the area of the Red River Valley is extremely flat, so you can have significant over land flooding over an extremely wide area.

The reason I am addressing it today, is there will be another outcry by members of the North Dakota Legislators and Fargo city officials to provide monies to provide permanent flood protection by creating a diversion channel around the Fargo-Moorhead area.  This project could cost upwards of $ 2 billion.   The major stumbling block is that this plan would require a holding area south of the cities, in times of high water, and would flood homes and farmland.  The cities of Fargo have spent $ 100 million and Moorhead have spent $ 88 million in buying out homes in low-lying areas and building earthen levees.

In the year 2011 alone, the State of North Dakota received over $ 1 billion  in Federal aid.   If there is a another flood this spring, and it appears to be very likely to occur, this would be the fourth flood in the past five years.

I am not opposed to offering aid to any community that finds itself in a mess after a disaster, but when is enough, going to be enough.  Fargo-Moorhead have received millions, if not billions over the years and have wasted countless funds on other projects (street and road construction) rather than a permanent solution to the almost annual flooding.  Because the residents and politicians can not reach a consensus…nothing gets done.  It’s the same old response  every year or so, we need people to sandbag and we have 750,000 in storage, but we need another 1.1 million at a minimum and, in the end, there they sit, asking again for more financial aid.

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