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Moorhead remains vigiliant in Red River flood fight, city builds backup dike

A frigid Moorhead is seen inundated by floodwaters from the Red River on Saturday in Fargo. Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press

MOORHEAD - Contractors built a new emergency dike to protect an area of south Moorhead as city officials urged residents Saturday to stay vigilant in fighting floodwaters that will persist at high levels.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for the emergency flood-control projects, decided to build the dike on both sides of Eighth Street South, from 30th to roughly 37th avenues south.

The dike was to protect homes from spillover from two storm sewer systems, one including a holding pond on the east side of the road. Water covered the far northbound lane for about a block at 36th Avenue.

The new dike will provide a second line of defense to augment levees and sandbags already in place by the river, said Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland.

"I still have great confidence that we have a good primary dike system," he said.

The latest dike work was done as floodwaters were running on some Moorhead streets near the Red River.

"Essentially, that water is river water in most cases," said Bob Zimmerman, Moorhead city engineer.

Also Saturday, Moorhead officials asked residents in the Concordia College neighborhood to be aware that they are protected by the Woodlawn levy, and to be wary.

"We're showing no signs of distress on the Woodlawn dike," said Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger. The challenge facing the city, he added, is to prepare for sustained high river levels.

Moorhead Police Chief David Ebinger said gawkers can expect to encounter police if they try to enter flood evacuation areas.

One area is bound by 50th Avenue South and Main Avenue and Eighth Street west to the river. Another is the country club addition in north Moorhead.

"Your property is being protected by law enforcement and the National Guard," Ebinger said. "Our priorities are lives and then property."

Property owners west of 20th Street are asked to plug their lower-level drains in the event sewers back up.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said he flew Saturday morning over an area draining to the Minnesota Wild Rice River and Buffalo River and saw mostly dry land.

"I'm not sure where this water is coming from," he said, adding that much of it could be coming from North Dakota. "They've done some diversions and channeling that may have had some effect on this."

Rep. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said it's unfortunate the Oakport Township area north of Moorhead isn't yet protected by flood controls that should be finished in two years.

Nancy Ward, the acting Federal Emergency Management Agency director, appeared at a briefing in the Clay County Courthouse and commended local officials and residents for their efforts.

"What you have done here in the last couple of weeks is nothing short of extraordinary," she said. "It's enlightening for me to see personally."

She reiterated the administration's pledge that local governments and residents will get the help they need. "We'll be here as long as it takes."

Readers can reach Forum reporters Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

and Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Patrick Springer

Patrick Springer first joined the reporting staff of The Forum in 1985. He can be reached by calling 701-241-5522. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to