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Corps does Fargo-Moorhead flood death-toll analysis

FARGO The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has done a loss-of-life analysis that could make it easier to argue for a larger diversion channel to protect Fargo-Moorhead from flooding. With an evacuation warning, the loss of life ranges from one person...

FARGO

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has done a loss-of-life analysis that could make it easier to argue for a larger diversion channel to protect Fargo-Moorhead from flooding.

With an evacuation warning, the loss of life ranges from one person in a 10-year flood to 12 people in a 500-year flood, a corps study says.

But, with an unexpected failure of levees, deaths would rise significantly, from 32 in a 10-year flood to 594 for a 500-year flood, the study said.

Corps project co-manager Aaron Snyder and Fargo City Commissioner Tim Mahoney said those figures might bolster the argument that a larger diversion, perhaps one that could carry 35,000 cubic feet per second of water, would be more in the national interest than a smaller 25,000-cubic-feet-per-second diversion.

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A larger diversion would protect the area to higher levels of flooding on the Red River.

A corps project manager shared this information with officials Friday at the Metro Flood Study Work Group, which will help decide the locally preferred flood control option for the area.

The work group on Friday also began to lay out the money potentially available to pay for a project. However, the corps couldn't tell the group if a North Dakota diversion of the Red River qualifies for federal funding.

The project could require $350 million in local funding for a 25,000-cubic-feet-per-second Minnesota diversion, to $750 million to $800 million for a North Dakota plan.

Fargo expects $200 million available from a sales tax over 20 years.

Cass County Administrator Bonnie Johnson said $150 million might be raised by special assessments. And North Dakota state Sen. Tom Fischer, R-Fargo, said the state should be able to provide $200 million.

Moorhead is seeking $12 million for a diversion from Minnesota for the biennium, City Administrator Michael Redlinger said. The city also needs $22 million for water infrastructure and home buyouts.

Snyder said updated cost-benefit figures for the Minnesota and North Dakota diversion plans won't be ready until Feb. 1.

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The findings will also be presented to the public at meetings Feb. 2 and 3 in Fargo and Moorhead.

But Snyder had bad news for North Dakota diversion backers: Downstream impacts have risen from 1 or 2 inches, to 6 to 8 inches. Those impacts must be mitigated, which could affect the cost-benefit ratio for a diversion on the west side of the Red River.

Snyder said the corps will need a letter from local officials by April 15.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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