Construction is literally reaching new heights this summer on the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Area Flood Risk Management Project.
After more than 10 years of planning, investigations and design by a regional team, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, is making historic strides in reducing future flood risk for more than 230,000 people that live within the Fargo, North Dakota / Moorhead, Minnesota metro area, said Terry Williams, St. Paul District program manager and North Dakota native. The construction efforts are starting to be noticeable, too, she added.
The construction includes work on the diversion inlet, near Horace, North Dakota; and the Wild Rice structure, near St. Benedict, North Dakota. The diversion inlet structure construction had been suspended for legal reasons, but Williams said it has since ramped up and reached another major milestone the first placement of concrete at the site. “It’s a huge day for our project, our design team and our sponsors,” she said. “It signifies years of hard work by a lot of people to get here, and I am excited to see the structure come out of the ground.”
The concrete work is expected to last into 2021 and will serve as the foundation for three 50-foot wide control gates that will be used to manage the amount of water that is diverted into the diversion channel and around the metro area. Williams said they anticipate needing 11,700 cubic yards of concrete for the inlet project.
As the diversion inlet construction makes noticeable strides, the Wild Rice structure is also making progress. Williams said the Corps and their contractor, Ames Construction, are taking lessons learned from constructing the diversion inlet and incorporating them into the Wild Rice structure. The contractor has excavated approximately 100,000 of the required 800,000 cubic yards of soil in preparation for the foundation and concrete work. Williams said she estimates that both the diversion inlet and Wild Rice projects will be finished in 2023. The Corps is also preparing to award three additional construction projects in 2021 – construction of the first segment of dam embankment, the Interstate Highway 29 road raise and the Drain 27 wetland restoration project.
While the Corps continues its efforts to design and construct the southern embankment or dam features of the project, they are also working with its partner, the FM Diversion Authority, on finalizing their P3 procurement for the design, build, finance, operation and maintenance of the 30-mile long diversion channel. This public-private-partnership delivery method allows a contractor to help fund and build the diversion channel faster than traditional construction methods. “The Corps and the Diversion Authority are working collectively to implement this $2.75 billion project,” said Williams. “This approach helps the community receive benefits from the project faster and at a lower cost.”
Williams said the goal is to have the entire project completed in 2027. Once complete, she said the project will not only protect the people within the metropolitan area but also the economic center of the region and the state of North Dakota. “We talk about this being a regional project and important to the economy but when you drill down to what it means to a family in the area,” she said, “it means that they will be able to go about their normal lives in the spring, their city will not have to shut down to flood fight.
Duane Perkins, St. Paul District lead structural engineer for the project and Breckenridge, Minnesota, native, said he understands what it’s like to deal with flooding. His family home was flooded by the Red River of the North in 1997. “The fear starts somewhere in December or January, when you start seeing heavy snowfalls,” he said. “People start getting worried about how the spring is going to look, whether or not there will be a flood.” He added that the project, once complete, will eliminate a lot of those concerns. “Not having to buy flood insurance, not having to volunteer to fill sandbags for weeks on end, and no longer worrying about the city flooding and people potentially losing their jobs,” he said. “That’s whole a whole other level of stress that hopefully will be taken care of with this project.