US Army Corps of Engineers
St. Paul District Website

Flood Risk Management: Fargo-Moorhead Metro

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
Published Feb. 27, 2015
Updated: March 18, 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.

men look at flood wall

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, Chief of Engineers, and Sen. John Hoeven toured the Second Street levees in Fargo, North Dakota.

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.

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.

two men plant a tree

Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, 54th U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visited the Fargo, North Dakota/Moorhead, Minnesota, area Aug. 23, 2016, to meet and learn from stakeholders working with the Corps' St. Paul District to build a federal flood damage reduction project. While there, he assisted in a tree planting that is part of the mitigation efforts for the Fargo/Moorhead Metropolitan Area Flood Damage Reduction Project. He is being assisted by Jon Sobiech, St. Paul District forester.

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, 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.
 
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). Non-federal construction of the diversion channel using a P3 is expected to begin in fall 2021. The first federal contract was awarded on December 6, 2016, for the Diversion Inlet Structure; construction began in spring 2017. The second federal contract was awarded November 27, 2019, for the Wild Rice River Structure. Both contracts are located in North Dakota.
 
Legal
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 April 8, 2019, the court modified the injunction to allow limited construction work in North Dakota, including the Diversion Inlet and Wild Rice River structures and the Western Tieback, and non-construction work in both North Dakota and Minnesota; subsequently on October 27, 2020, the court allowed the I-29 Grade Raise project to proceed. 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 seek dismissal of the federal litigation.
 
Federal (Construction)
FY 2016 ‒ FY 2021:          $313,049,996
 
Authority
Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. Received new start/construction funding in the fiscal year 2016 work plan.

News Releases

Corps awards a $2.2 million contract for the Fargo-Moorhead diversion project
4/2/2021
ST. PAUL, Minn. –The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, awarded a $2.2 million contract to Tunheim Construction LLC of Fargo, North Dakota, to complete the Southern Embankment Reach SE-1...
Corps to host virtual Fargo-Moorhead industry day for perspective contractors
2/3/2021
ST. PAUL, Minn. –The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, will host a virtual Fargo, N.D. / Moorhead, Minn., industry day March 9, starting at 8:30am...
Corps to contract for construction of I-29 grade raise for Fargo-Moorhead diversion project
10/29/2020
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, is beginning the contracting process for construction of a raise of I-29, where it crosses the southern embankment of the Fargo,...