Alternatives to Flood Management

Alternatives to the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion are being considered, as the $2.2 billion project was rejected by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulators last year. Five alternatives are being considered, including putting ring dikes around the F-M area.

A meeting between technical experts and regulators in Cass County on Tuesday, Nov. 14, resulted in an agreement to look into viable alternatives to the diversion and take another look at the ring dikes. However, supporters of the diversion consider the diking of a large area, such as F-M, is an unfeasible course of action.

Governors Doug Burgum (ND) and Mark Dayton (MN) created a task force this past October, with 16 appointed members, to “develop design principles and concept-level engineering solutions to achieve balanced flood risk management for the F-M region, including up- and downstream communities and properties.” The governors are co-chairing the task force.

A technical team appointed to advise the task force and figure out what type of flood protection will satisfy regulators is made up of six engineers and planners, including Kent Lokkesmoe, an administrator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

In comments to the Forum, Lokkesmoe stated, “What we want to do is end up with some alternatives for the task force to consider. You can have a no-dam alternative. The advantage of that is you don’t need a Minnesota state permit.”

The task force was created following a lawsuit brought against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the F-M Diversion Authority by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources because of their decision to not issue a permit for the proposed dam. The F-M Diversion Authority claims the dam is necessary to prevent excess water from flowing downstream into communities as a result of the diversion. The Minnesota DNR claims it doesn’t effectively manage the floodplain upstream, citing in their decision not to issue the permit, “The concerns of affected upstream communities have not been addressed.”

The issue of the permit was the cause for the suspension of the diversion project, in which the Minnesota DNR rejected the permit for the F-M Diversion Authority, citing concerns regarding public safety and welfare, land use and water management, management of the floodplain, mitigation and monitoring management.

Some proposed alternatives consider different variations of the diversion idea, including moving the channel or dam elements and adding in new features. Some of the features suggested include storage areas distributed around the Red River Valley to store excess floodwater.

Opponents of the diversion project suggested alternatives to diversions and damming, particularly a plan that involves levees only. However, both the Minnesota DNR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have rejected the idea of levees, stating that levees cannot provide for the protection necessary in the area.

Of the alternatives being considered, all are meant to reduce the impact on upstream communities, for the sake of Minnesota approval. Some of the alternatives being considered are:

More flow through town

The diversion project will be built as proposed, however, with more water flowing down the Red River, increasing the elevation of the river by two to four feet. This plan would decrease the amount of freeboard, the space between the water surface and the top of the dike, needed to prevent unexpected changes in water level.

The technical team claims that the task force would have to consider building higher levees and dikes and the costs associated, to make the alternative feasible.

Internal Storage

The diversion project would be built as designed with a water storage area between Horace and Interstate 29. This area would take in excess water from the dam, in the form of a ring dike.

More flow on Sheyenne and Maple Rivers

The diversion project would be built as designed while allowing more floodwater to flow upstream on other rivers. The concern with this alternative is that it could lead to greater flooding north of Fargo.

Move the dam north by 1.5 miles

The Minnesota DNR considered an option of a dam further upstream, which would result in less flooding in upstream communities, but offer less protection for the Red River Basin.

Move the dam north where wild rice and Red Rivers meet

This alternative would move the dam closer to Fargo, and offer less protection.

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