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Levees will begin to go up next week in Fargo

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Work is expected to start next week to place long-term earthen levees in several flood-prone Fargo neighborhoods.

The strategy aims to cut down on the desperate backyard sandbagging some neighborhoods have waged annually for years.

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So far, protests to the plans have been rare from neighborhoods that have recently learned about it, said April Walker, a city senior engineer.

Tonight, residents of Coulee Crossing and people living along Rose Creek Golf Course will get a look at plans to put in levees that could be left until Fargo-Moorhead gets permanent flood protection.

City officials will present those options in meetings starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Civic Center's Centennial Hall.

The cost of the long-term levees isn't known yet and will have to be broken out of the overall costs of this year's flood fight.

City Finance Director Kent Costin said levees left in place will be paid for with money from a half-cent sales tax dedicated to flood control.

The costs of the remaining temporary clay and sandbag levees for the flood fight would typically be paid by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or by the city, which is reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Costin said.

When the flood is past, the levees left in place will be shaped so that the slopes can be maintained, covered in topsoil and seeded with grass, Walker said.

As an example, the North Oaks levee, which would go across a dry oxbow by the Red River east of Longfellow Elementary School in north Fargo, would protect about 14 homes, she said. At a 40-foot flood, it would mean using 6,800 fewer sandbags.

Similarly, plans to put a long earthen levee on the south side of Timberline and to plug inlets to Drain 27 would save 86,000 sandbags at 40 feet, and a whopping 635,000 sandbags at 44 feet, Walker said.

Walker said the city wanted to leave many of the levees built last year in place. However, since federal money was used to build them, they had to be removed, or rebuilt to exacting standards.

Last year's flood fight cost $9 million, Costin said. The city is still waiting on reimbursement for $1.4 million of that, he said.

One large levee improvement project won't be done until this year's flood fight is well over.

Increasing the height of the Fourth Street levee will require removing 2 to 3 feet from the top of the levee, then reshaping it to make it 1 to 2½ feet higher than it is now, Walker said.

She said if extra height is needed on the levee this year, it will come from sandbags or other flood control measures.

The Fourth Street levee must be reworked so that it isn't decertified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency when the agency releases a new 100-year flood plain map for Fargo.

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