FM Diversion – Fargo Moorhead Area Diversion Project

Why is it Needed?

  • The Red River has exceeded flood stage in 49 of the past 110 years, including every year from 1993 through 2011, and again in 2013.
  • A 500-year event would flood nearly all of Fargo along with large portions of Moorhead and West Fargo. For reference, the 2009 flood was considered a 50-year event when the gage peaked at 40.8 feet in Fargo.
  • An extreme flood event, like those experienced in the recent past in Bismarck, Grand Forks and Minot, could lead to more than $10 billion in damages to the Fargo-Moorhead area.
  • The FM Diversion would protect the local economy, which generates $4.35 billion in annual non-farming wages and over $2.77 billion in annual taxable sales along with $14 billion in property value.

The FM Diversion would protect 1 in 5 of all North Dakotans.

Major commercial center for region

The Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan area is a major health, educational, cultural, and commercial center serving southeastern North Dakota and west-central Minnesota. The area is significantly prone to flooding.

A 500-year event would flood nearly the entire city of Fargo and a large portion of the city of Moorhead, as well as a major portion of West Fargo and several surrounding communities in the area. The Red River has exceeded flood stage in 48 of the past 109 years, and every year from 1993 through 2011.

Average annual flood damages are estimated at over $194.8 million.

Emergency measures are not enough

The residents of Fargo-Moorhead have been successful at preventing significant damages during past flood events by constructing emergency levees along large portions of the Red River. However, constructing the emergency levees takes significant financial and human resources, causes business and traffic disruptions, and is taxing to the social fabric of the communities.

Although the emergency levees have been successful in the past, there is a high risk of a catastrophic failure which would result in significant damages and loss of life to the area. Also, the past success of emergency levees has created a false sense of security in some who may not appreciate the risks of flooding.

Costs of emergency measures

Significant costs are incurred during emergency flood fighting efforts. During large flood events, people in Fargo and Moorhead build as many as 80 miles of emergency levees through town in an effort to retain flood waters. Businesses, residents, federal agencies, local and state governments, as well as humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army all contribute to the flood fight, rescue and clean-up efforts.