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Published March 16, 2010, 10:10 PM

Fargo's 500 Year Flood Protection Could Impact Grand Forks' Protection

The Red River Basin Commission has questioned in the past whether a 500-year protection in Fargo and 700-year protection in Manitoba could drastically lower the effectiveness of flood protection in Grand Forks.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

Grand Forks and East Grand Forks' flood protection system was built to protect the cities through severe flooding of the Red and Red Lake rivers.

Grand Forks City Engineer Mark Walker: "1997 was just something less then a 250 year flood event, This project was designed for a 250 year flood."

Fargo and Moorhead area leaders are pushing for a 500 year flood protection project.

Joe Belford/Red River Basin Commissioner: "They are lower on down the chain of the Red River, more tributaries come into it. So it creates heavier flows."

Red River Basin board member Joe Belford says just how a 500-year a flood project might affect the flow of Red River through greater Grand Forks isn't exactly known. Especially since the Fargo protection would likely include a diversion project that could speed water around the community. The Basin board has questioned in the past whether a 500-year protection in Fargo and 700-year protection in Manitoba could drastically lower the effectiveness of flood protection in Grand Forks. Belford wonders how it might perform.

Joe Belford/Red River Basin Commissioner: "Put the elevations in, put levies up. They were dealing with the worst possible flood that they have had. And of course it's protected. If the inflows go higher out of Fargo they may need more protection."

While Grand Forks didn't end up with the same level of flood protection as Fargo may get, Walker isn't complaining.

Grand Forks City Engineer Mark Walker: "I'm just thankful for what we have today. I remember the old days of hauling clay on Columbia road. I'm just so thankful that we have what we have."

The Corps of Engineers does say that communities immediately downstream from Fargo could experience a 4 to 10 inch rise in flood levels after Fargo's protection system is built.

Right now the dikes in Grand Forks protect the city from river levels up to 57 feet. Another 3 feet of clay could be added to them for 60 feet of protection, which is the level of the flood walls.

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