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Grand Forks company showcases plastic barrier for future flood events

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Mark Haaland, left and Jeff Carl, demonstrate the locking mechanism for the Floodstop Barrier. (Adam Kurtz/ Grand Forks Herald)

With a potential flood battle lurking around the corner, one Grand Forks company took the opportunity to showcase a product that it believes is a better alternative to sandbags.

PS Industries, located in the Grand Forks business park, does the vast majority of its business in areas outside of the state. The company held an event on Friday, March 6, to display a Floodstop Barrier, that could be used locally. The barrier is a 36-inch-high partially self-filling floodwall, that the company believes can provide protection from a flood in less time than it takes to make a sandbag wall.

“Now is the time -- because everybody’s thinking flood, they’re doing flood and they got flood on the mind -- to really bring them in and tell them,” said Mark Haaland, sales and marketing director for PS Industries.

The Floodstop on display on Friday was a big, 40-inch-long molded-plastic block that can interlock with other pieces to form a wall. The sections are locked together with a concrete “key.” Some of the sections are filled with water to provide stability, and others can have a hole cut on the bottom of the wet-side of the wall so the empty blocks fill up as flood waters approach then rise. This, of course, means the blocks are self emptying as well. Haaland said the barrier is designed for rapid deployment, and flood waters can be pumped into the blocks as well.

According to Haaland, there are a few advantages to the plastic barrier over sandbags, though storage can be an issue.

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“They're designed for municipalities, but they're also sold into some residences,” he said. “The biggest issue with a residence, though is storage. What are you going to do with all these when you are not using them? With a municipality, that’s not an issue.”

They are also reusable, whereas sandbags are considered contaminated after coming in contact with floodwaters, and require disposal.

Haaland said the Floodstop is used in San Francisco, Texas, New York and other coastal areas that are prone to flooding. Golf courses also make use of the product, he said.

Blake Beckstead, street supervisor for the city, said the wall could cut down on time and manpower needed to fill sandbags.

“I know we fill a lot of sandbags, and they’re a pain to get wet,” Beckstead said.

They don’t come cheap. One section runs nearly $400, and what is called the “multi-hub,” a corner section of the wall, is still more.

“I know it’s an investment, but it’s a lifetime investment,” Beckstead said.

Interested parties will have to wait for a future flood event, as the barriers take time to produce. Haaland said the factory, located in Benson, Minnesota, can kick out about five blocks a day. That means orders have to be made well in advance, which was part of the reason for the awareness-raising event.

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“We got our cue from Fargo,” Haaland said. “They said they wanted 4,000 feet of flood protection at 36-inch height. They said they would let us know at the end of March, and they need it by April 6.”

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

Desk: 701-780-1110
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