US Army Corps of Engineers
St. Paul District

Flood Risk Management: Fargo-Moorhead Metro

Published Feb. 27, 2015
Updated: March 21, 2019
Jason Hager, left, and Paul Machajewski, both Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District employees, discuss building a temporary levee along 2nd Street in Fargo to help protect the city from flooding due to the rising Red River of the North April 26. This is the fourth time in the past five years that the Corps has supported the city’s flood fight.

Jason Hager, left, and Paul Machajewski, both Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District employees, discuss building a temporary levee along 2nd Street in Fargo to help protect the city from flooding due to the rising Red River of the North April 26, 2013. This is the fourth time in the past five years that the Corps has supported the city’s flood fight.

HORACE, N.D. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, and the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Board of Authority hosted a 1997 Flood Commemoration and Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Area Flood Risk Management Project April 17. The ground breaking was held where the diversion project’s inlet control structure will be located, south of Horace, North Dakota. The day was selected because it was the 20tn anniversary of the day the Red River of the North crested in Fargo and Moorhead during the historic flood of 1997. – USACE photo by Shannon Bauer

HORACE, N.D. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, and the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Board of Authority hosted a Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Area Flood Risk Management Project April 17, 2017. The event was held where the diversion project’s inlet control structure will be located, south of Horace, North Dakota. – USACE photo by Shannon Bauer

FARGO, N.D. – The Corps of Engineers completed a temporary emergency levee near the city hall along 2nd Street in Fargo, N.D., April 29. The Corps completed the temporary levee near the city hall to support the city’s flood fight efforts against the Red River of the North. This is the fourth time in the past five years that the Corps has assisted the city.

FARGO, N.D. – The Corps of Engineers completed a temporary emergency levee near the city hall along 2nd Street in Fargo, N.D., April 29, 2013. The Corps completed the temporary levee near the city hall to support the city’s flood fight efforts against the Red River of the North. This is the fourth time in the past five years that the Corps has assisted the city.

Location/Description

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.  

Background

The Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area is a major health, educational, 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 53 of the past 116 years (1902 through 2017), with six 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.

Status

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 $2,841,062,000.

Fargo-Moorhead is the first U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to use a public private partnership (P3).  If legal issues are resolved soon, non-federal construction of the diversion channel using a P3 is expected to begin in 2020.  The first federal contract was awarded on December 6, 2016 for the Diversion Inlet Structure, located in North Dakota; construction began in spring 2017.

Legal

In October 2016, the state of Minnesota denied an initial permit application submitted by the sponsors.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Richland/Wilkin Joint Powers Authority filed a lawsuit 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 pending the decision on the merits of the underlying litigation.  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 and signed the Record of Decision for the supplemental environmental impact statement.  The St. Paul District signed a Finding of No Significant Impact for a Supplemental Environmental Assessment in February 2019.  Modifications to the injunction are currently being sought.

Federal (Construction)

FY 2016 ‒ FY 2019    $98,049,996

Authority

Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. Received new start/construction funding in the FY 2016 Work Plan.

 


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