Location: Fargo, ND
Client: City of Fargo
No More Temporary Solutions
In recent years, many of you have either faced the challenges of a flood or felt its lingering effects. With this experience you can appreciate the City of Fargo's all too regular and consuming efforts to construct emergency levees on 2nd Street North in downtown Fargo.
These emergency levees were constructed a remarkable eight times in the past 16 years—twice in 2013—to fight flooding in both the spring and summer. Fighting floods is a costly and time-consuming effort. The repetitive act of constructing emergency levees for one or more flood(s) every decade since the 1960s has taken a toll on the City and its residents. The City needs a lasting and permanent flood protection solution.
The ongoing F-M Diversion Project through the F-M Diversion Authority and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a means of providing regional flood protection. Until the F-M Diversion is complete—and during larger flood events even after it is complete—permanent flood protection is needed for the 2nd Street/downtown area.
This area is the home to City Hall, historic buildings, established businesses, and residents. “While the City has been successful to date in holding back the Red River with these temporary measures," the City states on its website, "it is vital to establish permanent protection that is far more reliable than the emergency efforts.”
In the wake of what feels like a flood fighting marathon, the City and the F-M Diversion Authority have chosen to construct a floodwall as a shield between the City’s iconic downtown and the flood-prone Red River. While this $56-million project’s primary purpose is to protect homes and businesses from the Red River, it also presents the opportunity to preserve, restore, and even enhance the riverfront that residents already
Unification with a Wall
The construction of this floodwall and related segments of the project will actually bring people closer to the river, not separate them from it. The wall contains several removable sections that the City can quickly close in the event of a flood but will
otherwise remain open and provide riverfront access.
These openings keep residents connected to a trail system along the riverfront that runs nearly the entire length of the city. Because the previous walkway was popular with residents, preserving and expanding the recreational opportunities along the river became a priority for this project.
Walkers and cyclists can pass through the floodwall openings and access the new pathways through a plaza-like entrance decorated with planters, benches, and gateway monuments.
Additional access points are placed throughout the wall. New trees, native grasses, and perennial flowers keep the focus on nature. Even the floodwall itself will resemble natural limestone to keep with the theme. The floodwall will also realign 2nd Street, moving the existing roadway further from the river and creating the opportunity for more green space along the riverfront than ever before.
The floodwall will significantly reduce the need for emergency levees during flood events for the 2nd Street/downtown area. Responses will be faster and more cost-effective. However, creating permanent flood protection does not come without hurdles.
Located on the edge of downtown, this fully developed area required significant forethought, especially with regard to underground utilities. Decades-old public utilities—including water, sanitary sewer, and storm sewer lines—required replacement. Because of the proximity to the river, many of these utilities were more than 25 feet deep.
Nearly a dozen private utility companies coordinated with the project team to relocate their lines in a single trench. In some cases the floodwall was actually cast around these utilities.
The project is located in the heart of downtown Fargo which has been developed and re-developed many times over the past 100 years, so a number of obstacles were encountered during design and construction. These obstacles included foundations and debris from old buildings and environmental hazards requiring clean-up to create a clean slate for the new project.
The design also looks to the future, knowing that Fargo’s City Hall will soon be reconstructed. The floodwall will allow for a possible pedestrian bridge over the top of the wall that will connect the paths in the green space to City Hall.
In the end, this floodwall project will provide permanent and reliable flood protection to a heavily populated and commercial area while preserving and expanding the existing natural elements of the area.