St. Paul District Continues Efforts to Reduce Flood Risk to Metro Area
, St. Paul District
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) St. Paul District reached major milestones in 2022 in its efforts to reduce flood risk to more than 235,000 people in the greater Fargo, North Dakota-Moorhead, Minnesota, metro area.
USACE leaders supported its partner, the Metro Flood Diversion Authority, as they broke ground on their portion of a diversion project that includes a 30-mile diversion channel, Aug. 9.
In a field with construction equipment near the site where the diversion channel will tie back into the Red River of the North, elected officials from North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as senior leaders within USACE, to include Jaime Pinkham, principal deputy for assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works; Stacey Brown, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works (Management and Budget); Maj. Gen. Diana Holland, Mississippi Valley Division commander; and Col. Eric Swenson, St. Paul District commander, gathered to provide some perspective on this milestone, which was years in the making.
“The communities of Fargo and Moorhead and the Army Corps of Engineers have a long history dating back to the early 1950s working side by side to manage flood events,” said Swenson. “Today, we are taking a small step, or scoop of dirt, which symbolizes the earthwork that will soon define a large step forward – a step that will shift our efforts from flood fighting to flood prevention.”
A crane lifts a Tainter gate into place at the USACE St. Paul District Wild Rice Inlet Structure near Horace, North Dakota, Sept. 19. The gate is one of two that will be erected at the structure, which is a key component of the Fargo, North Dakota-Moorhead, Minnesota, Metro Area Diversion project. Once the project is complete, it will reduce flood risk to more than 235,000 people within the region.
PHOTO BY PATRICK MOES
“The symbolic groundbreaking is another step toward protecting more than 235,000 residents and 70 square miles of infrastructure within the greater Fargo-Moorhead Metro Area,” said Terry Williams, St. Paul District program manager in charge of USACE’s portion of the flood diversion project. She added that this project is one of the top priorities for USACE, and her team is working together with local partners to reduce flood risk to the area, which includes implementation using an alternative financing/split-delivery approach.
The financing and delivery concept, also known as a public-private partnership, or P3, is the first of its kind within USACE’s Civil Works program. “Utilizing the P3/split-delivery approach enables us to provide flood risk management benefits 10 years sooner when compared to traditional delivery methods,” said Williams, a North Dakota native. She added that the project is expected to provide benefits to the region as soon as 2027.
Williams said the split delivery includes the non-federal sponsor using a 30-year public-private partnership delivery to finance, design, build, operate, and maintain the diversion channel and associated features. She added that USACE’s efforts include designing and constructing the diversion inlet structure, the Wild Rice and Red River structures, 20 miles of dam embankments, and associated road raises, to include a 4-mile raise of Interstate Highway 29. “We currently have more than $300 million under construction to include seven of the 13 planned federal contracts,” said Williams.
While the Fargo-Moorhead Metro Area is on its way to significantly reducing future flood risks, the P3 funding concept is growing as a delivery solution within USACE as communities look to create resilient infrastructure against future flood threats. “The implementation of this project using public-private partnership provides proof of concept and represents a new era in community-based infrastructure investment,” said Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, the 55th chief of engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Duane Perkins, St. Paul District technical lead for the Metro Area Diversion project, examines a paint coating Sept. 19 on a piece of a Tainter gate that will be erected at USACE’s St. Paul District Wild Rice Inlet Structure near Horace, North Dakota. USACE’s contractor erected the other gate into place Sept. 19. The Tainter gates are a key component to the structure.
PHOTO BY PATRICK MOES
Williams said the need to innovate and to find solutions that work for everyone is just one of the reasons that USACE’s Fargo-Moorhead team supporting the P3 effort was recently selected as USACE’s Project Delivery Team of the Year for Excellence. “This team, along with our dedicated sponsor partners, [was] able to accelerate the delivery of this critical project and met every challenge associated with doing something technically and procedurally complex for the very first time,” she said.
In addition to the diversion channel, USACE engineers and its contractor, Ames Construction from Burnsville, Minnesota, installed the first of two Tainter gates at the Wild Rice Structure near Horace, North Dakota, Sept. 19.This was the first of seven large gates to be installed at the three structures, and the event symbolizes a great deal of hard work and dedication by the team, said Duane Perkins, St. Paul District technical lead engineer for the project.
The Wild Rice Structure is one of three that will eventually divert water around the metro area through the diversion channel. “To go from ... seeing the gates being manufactured to being vertically installed is very rewarding,” said Richard Tollefson, St. Paul District construction engineer.
Elsewhere, work continues on the diversion inlet structure, the I-29 raise, and multiple reaches of dam embankment, and the Red River Structure construction is in the beginning phases, with concrete placement expected toward the beginning of 2023.