With the Red River predicted to crest at near-record levels earlier than anticipated, Senators Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad and Congressman Earl Pomeroy today mapped out a strategy with top federal, state, and local officials to help protect homes and businesses in the Red River Valley from major flooding.
At an emergency meeting convened in the Capitol Hill office of Senator Conrad, the delegation was joined by Gov. John Hoeven, Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, North Dakota National Guard Adj. Gen. Dave Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota Director of Emergency Service Greg Wilz, as well as Lisa Konwinski from the White House, Maj. Gen. Bo Temple from the US Army Corps of Engineers, David Garratt, Acting Deputy Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Tom Graziano and Mark Frazier of the National Weather Service. Officials either joined in person or via videolink.
The focus of the meeting was to coordinate information and flood preparations among state, federal and local agencies. While Fargo and Wahpeton are of the most immediate concern, the delegation pressed to get updates on flood preparations up the Red River Valley and across the state.
“The Red River Valley learned a very painful lesson in 1997, but by enduring that tragedy we are better prepared to meet this challenge,” the delegation said in a joint statement. “We know the focus now must be on putting all our effort into protecting our towns, which will require a significant number of volunteers to help sandbag. As we do that, we must also begin preparations for the recovery effort.”
The National Weather Service had predicted that the Red River is expected to crest at 40 feet in Fargo on Saturday, March 28. However, yesterday the NWS pushed the crest date back to between March 28 and April 1.
Construction efforts on emergency levees began Thursday and will continue around the clock until completed. The St. Paul District Army Corps of Engineers office has indicated it has the resources and the man power to get the job done in Fargo and other communities that have requested assistance. In addition, Mayor Walaker estimates about 1.5 million sandbags will be needed to protect the city if it reaches 39 feet. If the crest is 40 feet, about 3 million sandbags will be needed. The Corps will also be working on building emergency levees in Harwood and Wahpeton.