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Fargo-Moorhead area looks to flood cleanup phase

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Detroit Lakes, 56501

Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

FARGO - As Red River crest projections continued their freefall Wednesday, Fargo and Moorhead officials talked about the next phase in the flood fight: cleanup.

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The National Weather Service now expects the Red to top out at 35.5 feet in its second crest Saturday, thanks to a forecast that calls for a major storm to swing much farther south, leaving the region with only a quarter-inch of rain over the next few days.

Nonetheless, the flood fight continued along the Sheyenne River and in rural Cass County.

Voluntary evacuations were called for Kathryn, N.D., due to erosion on a nearby dam, and for 79 homes in Lisbon, N.D., due to seepage in a dike.

Fargo and Moorhead have sent thousands of sandbags to cities and counties in need. Fargo sent more than a 100,000 bags in recent days to areas struggling to keep the Sheyenne at bay, and offered 175,000 more to those in need.

Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney described roads as "horrible" and dangerous. Some roads have 20- to 40-foot sections washed out by overland flooding, he said.

Meanwhile, Fargo officials toured flood zones Wednesday with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, trying to parse out where the responsibilities of the corps would end and FEMA's begin, said City Administrator Pat Zavoral.

A group of Fargo and Moorhead commissioners, council members and staff members also met Tuesday to discuss cooperation on long-term flood measures.

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland and Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said the ongoing talks will include Fargo's Southside Flood Control Project.

Cleanup on horizon

Fargo plans to start removing the dozens of miles of clay and sandbag dikes in the city after the second crest of the Red, expected Saturday.

Work could start next week, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers subcontracting the project, city officials said.

Moorhead also hopes to get the corps to remove its sandbag dikes.

"We want to make sure the Moorhead resident is treated the same as the Fargo resident," said Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger.

Fargo city engineers said the first priority will be to remove earthen dikes, starting with those on arterial streets. Crews will then move to neighborhood street dikes and non-street dikes. That will be a 24-hour operation.

It could take weeks to remove clay and Hesco sand barriers in the city, officials said. Priorities for removing sandbags have not been set because residents must sign waivers before work begins.

"Be patient," said City Commissioner Tim Mahoney. "It may have taken nine days to put up, but it may take 36 days or more to take down."

In Moorhead, storm sewer outflows, which had been plugged to stop river water from entering the system, have been reopened, Redlinger said.

He said clay contingency dikes will likely remain in place until the city and the corps finalize a plan for taking them down.

FEMA opened an office at the Cass County Courthouse Annex, 1010 2nd Ave. S., Fargo, on Wednesday for Fargo and Cass County property owners with damage.

Those reporting damage should first register with FEMA by calling (800) 621-3362 or by going to www.disasterassistance.gov.

The National Guard reported 2,100 military personnel were aiding in the flood fight statewide. The total includes 300 guardsmen from Minnesota and Wisconsin, and 57 U.S. Coast Guard personnel.

Forum News Director Steven Wagner and reporter Dave Olson contributed to this report

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