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Fargo to tackle 20 flood projects

Raising the height of Fargo's Fourth Street South levee a couple of feet this summer will cost only about $125,000, city records show. But done fast enough, the project could save property owners in the Hawthorne and Island Park areas hundreds, p...

Raising the height of Fargo's Fourth Street South levee a couple of feet this summer will cost only about $125,000, city records show.

But done fast enough, the project could save property owners in the Hawthorne and Island Park areas hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars in flood insurance payments.

The project, one of 20 city engineers want to tackle this year to improve flood protection citywide, would keep the area out of the 100-year flood plain.

However, it must be finished before the Federal Emergency Management Agency decertifies the levee, Senior Engineer April Walker told City Commissioners Friday.

The levee, which was once considered 100-year flood protection, is now considered good to a 40-year flood because of vulnerabilities where it ties in to high ground, she said.

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Commissioners met with staff on Friday to go over an extensive list of projects meant to bring the city's current 37 to 38 feet of flood protection up to the 41- to 44-foot range.

The projects would build or improve levees, protect storm sewers, extend drains, raise roads and remove homes along the Red River, Rose Coulee and major county drains.

There were some sharp differences on at least two projects.

Mayor Dennis Walaker said he wouldn't support allowing 15 homes on South River Road to take part in the backyard elevation program because the improvements would do little long-term good.

"I don't want to see one more dollar spent to make temporary improvements," Walaker said. "The goal on this is to get (protection) up to 42 or 43 feet."

Commissioner Mike Williams countered that it made less sense to spend millions to protect land, such as that surrounding the new Davies High School that must be raised 4 feet to build, while not giving people who've paid taxes for 60 years a chance to fight for their homes at a cost of $10,000 a lot.

"We'll go a long way to invest in what we want but forget to protect what we have," Williams said.

Three projects totaling $4.2 million, including the Fourth Street levee, are under contract to be done this year.

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Seventeen other projects totaling $12.2 million are Priority 1 plans.

Those will be the focus of work this summer, though not all are expected to be completed because up to 14 homes must be bought. Projects needing buyouts will wait until property owners decide they've had enough of flood fighting, officials said.

Another four projects worth $12 million are designated Priority 2. Three of the four projects would require buying 22 homes.

Residents will also be encouraged to take part in a backyard elevation program to cut down on sandbagging until a Red River diversion channel is built to protect the metro area.

The Priority 1 projects could be paid with $6 million in flood sales tax funds, special assessments, and a mix of Southeast Cass Water Resource District and state and federal funds, City Administrator Pat Zavoral said.

City Finance Director Kent Costin said $10 million to $12 million of funds bonded against the sales tax are available for the projects.

In most areas, there was a solid consensus that the work was needed. For example, buying one home on South River Road in Belmont Park would allow building a levee that would greatly improve water plant protection.

"This is one of the top three most critical areas in the city right now," Zavoral said.

Related Topics: 2010 FLOODS
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