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Fargo builds temporary dike as river rises

Fargo, N.D., has a history of flooding from the Red River. This neighborhood used sandbag dikes when waters rose in April 2006.Jim Mone / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

City officials are a planning another battle with the Red River, which continued its rise here Tuesday as crews worked on a dike to protect downtown and kept an eye on forecasts for another storm system.

The dike being built east of City Hall will be nearly five blocks long, to protect low-lying areas of the city. Army Corps of Engineers area flood engineer Tim Bertschi said it would be about 4 feet high and should be finished Tuesday night.

Bertschi said officials believe the projected Red River crest of 33 feet or 34 feet in Fargo is solid, based on the amount of water to the south. The Red flows north. Flood stage in Fargo is 18 feet.

"It's a matter of timing," Bertschi said. "But when you add those numbers up ... everybody feels that's a pretty good number at this time."

Officials were watching a storm system expected Wednesday or Thursday that could bring more rain to the area.

Gov. John Hoeven issued a disaster declaration Monday for communities in the Red River Valley, where rivers are rising after heavy rain last weekend.

The governor's action, following an emergency declaration by Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, is aimed at paving the way for state and federal aid. Officials in Richland County and the cities of Milnor and Wahpeton also declared emergencies.

Fargo officials said they knew of no homes in danger from the Red River. It had risen to 24 feet early Tuesday.

"This has been a very unusual year. As far as I'm concerned, it's a record. This is the seventh time that the Red River has gone for another crest," Walaker said.

"We've had some scares and so forth all spring, but we've dodged a bullet quite well. It appears this next one is going to be a little more serious," he said.

The Red is expected to rise about 4 feet each day, City Engineer Mark Bittner said.

The Fargo dike being built this week will use about 4,000 yards of clay and is estimated to cost about $60,000 to build and about $30,000 to remove, Bittner said.

To the south, more than 40 roads and bridges in Richland County were closed after heavy weekend rain, county officials said.

The city has asked the Army Corps of Engineers to study the feasibility of a downtown floodwall that would eliminate the need for a temporary dike every time the Red is predicted to rise above 30 feet. Officials of the corps and the city are to meet June 19 to discuss the $17 million floodwall proposal and other issues, Bittner said.