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RYAN BAKKEN: Another April sans sandbags

OK, I concede that "Business Insurance" magazine may not carry the same high profile as Time, Newsweek or even Ladies' Home Journal. Still, it was impressive that Grand Forks' flood recovery success was the magazine's cover story in its March 25 ...

Ryan Bakken
Ryan Bakken

OK, I concede that "Business Insurance" magazine may not carry the same high profile as Time, Newsweek or even Ladies' Home Journal.

Still, it was impressive that Grand Forks' flood recovery success was the magazine's cover story in its March 25 issue. Accompanied by the iconic photograph of the fire-gutted/flooded Security Building in downtown Grand Forks in 1997, the cover story's headline read:

"Grand Forks a Model of Historic Flood Recovery"

This is not breaking news. Grand Forks has long been praised for its rebound. Along with the grit that residents displayed in recovery, the story also heaped credit on the National Flood Insurance Program and the acronym twin towers of recovery -- FEMA and HUD.

This month's 16-year anniversary of the flood is not a round-enough number to attract national media attention, as the five-year and 10-year anniversaries were and the 25th will be. But every April is reason enough to celebrate for Grand Forks and East Grand Forks residents.

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The biggest reason for celebration is the 6-year-old flood protection system, which can withstand a 500-year flood. The floodwall and its accessories already have weathered the third-highest (2009) and fourth-highest (2011) river levels, without a bead of nervous perspiration.

Ed Conley, who managed FEMA's office in Grand Forks, was quoted extensively in the magazine story. He credited elected and civic leadership for planning its building decisions and infrastructure repairs with long-term protection in mind.

Kirk Nestaval, president of the Vaaler Insurance agency in Grand Forks, commented in the story about flood insurance policies and the lack thereof.

But the most concise summary of progress since 1997 came from Kevin Dean, the former WDAZ-TV anchorman who is now the city's public information officer.

Dean, who still has never met a camera, microphone or notebook he didn't like, said this: "We don't fill any sandbags at all anymore. Sandbags are a thing of the past for us."

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send e-mail to rbakken@gfherald.com .

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