Flood Risk Management: Fargo-Moorhead Metro

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
Published Feb. 27, 2015
Updated: Sept. 21, 2021
Construction reaches new heights on Red River of the North project

A crew of workers places the first loads of concrete at the diversion inlet site near Horace, North Dakota, July 27. The Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, is working in partnership with the cities of Fargo, North Dakota; West Fargo, North Dakota; Moorhead, Minnesota; and the Fargo – Moorhead Diversion Authority to complete the flood risk management project. Once complete, the project will protect more than 230,000 people that live and work within the metro area.

A man in a hard hat and reflective vest at a construction site.

Construction continues at the diversion inlet.

A group of individuals visit a construction site. There is a crane and cement wall behind the individuals.

Jaime A. Pinkham (center), Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, takes a tour of the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Area Flood Risk Management Project July 22. Here he is visiting the projects diversion inlet structure located near Horace, N.D.

A construction site with a crane

The Wild Rice inlet structure under construction at the Fargo-Moorhead Metro flood risk diversion project.

A construction truck carries materials on a construction site

Construction of the I-19 road raise and borrow ditch crossing

Two men work at a construction site

Construction of the Fargo-Moorhead Metro flood risk management diversion inlet

man pounds survey equipment into ground

Engineering and construction crews complete geomorphic surveys as part of the Adaptive Management Plan for the Fargo-Moorhead diversion channel. The team spent many weeks in the area placing monuments, completing bathymetric surveys and collecting cross-section survey data. Additionally the survey crew coordinated extensively with contractors and teams from Fountain City, Wis., and the Rock Island District, ensuring the St. Paul District can monitor the environment before, during and after construction.

Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota are on the west and east banks respectively of the Red River of the North, approximately 150 miles south of the Canada-United States border. The Wild Rice, Sheyenne, Maple and Rush rivers in North Dakota and the Buffalo River in Minnesota also cross the project area. 
The Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area is a major health, education, cultural and commercial center. The area is prone to flooding. The Red River of the North has exceeded the National Weather Service flood stage of 18 feet in 55 of the past 118 years (1902 through 2019), with seven of the top 10 floods occurring in the last 30 years. A 500-year event would flood nearly the entire city of Fargo, a large portion of the city of Moorhead and several smaller communities in the area. Flooding occurs not only from the rivers but also from large rainfall events that overwhelm storm drainage systems. Average annual flood damages are estimated at approximately $238 million. Although emergency flood fights have been very successful, the area has a significant risk of catastrophic flooding.

The project is a 20,000-cubic foot per second diversion channel in North Dakota with upstream staging. A feasibility study was initiated in 2008 and completed in 2011. A record of decision was signed April 3, 2012. The Metro Flood Diversion Authority, the city of Fargo, North Dakota and the city of Moorhead, Minnesota are the non-federal sponsors (NFS). The Project Partnership Agreement, executed on July 11, 2016; and, as amended March 2019, limits the federal share to $750 million plus inflation. The total project cost is currently estimated to be $2,891,771,000.

Fargo-Moorhead is the first U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to use a public private partnership (P3). Non-federal construction of the diversion channel using a P3 is expected to begin in spring 2022. The first federal contract was awarded on December 6, 2016, for the Diversion Inlet Structure; construction began in spring 2017. Construction of the Wild Rice River Structure, the I-29 Raise and Southern Embankment Reach SE-1 are also ongoing.

In October 2016, the state of Minnesota denied an initial permit application submitted by the sponsors. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources intervened in a lawsuit previously filed by the Richland/Wilkin Joint Powers Authority (JPA), alleging that Minnesota permits are required prior to construction. On September 7, 2017, the court issued an injunction against the Corps and the sponsors requiring all construction efforts cease. The litigation was then stayed while the North Dakota and Minnesota governors assembled a task force to find a solution permittable by Minnesota while maintaining federal authorization. “Plan B” was developed, which balances impacts and benefits between the two states. In December 2018, the state of Minnesota issued the Dam Safety/Public Waters Permit. On October 26, 2020, the non-federal sponsors and the Richland/Wilkin Joint Powers Authority agreed to terms of a settlement agreement in which the JPA would cease its opposition to the project and the federal litigation was dismissed on March 30, 2021.
Federal (Construction)
FY 2016 ‒ FY 2021:          $313,049,996
Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. Received new start/construction funding in the fiscal year 2016 work plan.

News Releases

Senior Army official visited Fargo-Moorhead flood project today
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, and Metro Flood Diversion Authority hosted Jaime A. Pinkham, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and...
Corps of Engineers celebrates the contractor selection of the first public-private partnership for a civil works project
6/18/2021 UPDATED
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, is celebrating the Metro Flood Diversion Authority’s contractor selection of a public-private partnership today to the Red River...
Corps of Engineers to host open house for the 1-29 grade raise project
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Metro Flood Diversion Authority and the North Dakota Department of Transportation invite the community to attend an open house to learn more about the upcoming...