F-M Flood Diversion: Groundbreaking for Flood Protection
Community members remember the flood of 97 and move forward with the diversion project
RED RIVER VALLEY — City and state leaders from both sides of the Red gathered to remember an event that devastated the region throughout the valley.
It’s been 20 years since the flood of ’97 and while they talk about how they were able to overcome, leaders are also discussing how to move forward with future protection.
“I remember some of the CPAs were boating to come into work every day because their houses were flooded,” said Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams.
The historic flood of 1997 caused both heartache and made ordinary people into heroes.
“Not only was the entire community flooded, but you also had the fires in downtown, do you remember that?” asked Republican North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven.
What started as a small fire in one building in downtown Grand Forks spread quickly after firefighters were unable to reach the structure.
Floodwaters also reached more than three miles inland causing $3.5 billion to repair the total damages.
Twenty years later, local leaders are officially breaking ground on a project that will help keep us safe from future flooding.
“I think it’s important that we’re doing this on the anniversary of the crest because this is a reminder,” said Democratic North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
The Diversion Project will include a 30 mile long diversion channel in North Dakota.
It also includes a 12 mile embankment, 19 highway bridges, four railroad bridges, three gated control structures and two aqueduct structures.
All for about $2 billion.
“It’s really exciting to finally have the Corps, who has been committed to this all along, finally sit down and say ‘let’s do the groundbreaking ceremony’,” said Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney.
Aside from all of the excitement, there were about 20 protesters out at the site, voicing their concerns about the diversion project.
Protesters say all the project will do is get rid of their farmland and take money out of their pockets.
“Be fair with me,” said Don Cossette, who talked with Sen. Heitkamp. “Don’t treat me like a second class citizen here. My mother is in a nursing home, which is going to cost us an immense amount of money.”
Leaders say they understand the concern.
“I have a lot of sympathy for what the protesters are saying and hopefully we’ll be able to work through it,” said Sen. Heitkamp.
However, they say it’s still a project that needs to get done.
“We’ve got to build this permanent flood protection,” added Sen. Hoeven.
It’s protection that could bring peace of mind to many that remember the Flood of ’97.
Federal and local leaders hope to have the F-M Diversion project completed by 2024.