Today, City of West Fargo Commission President Bernie Dardis signed an official Emergency Declaration for the City of West Fargo to provide departments and agencies the ability to initiate appropriate actions to manage and recover from the potential impact of spring flooding.
“While the City of West Fargo is well situated to deal with spring flooding due to the Sheyenne River Diversion Flood Control Projects and expertise among staff, elected officials and partners, this is a necessary step to ensure the city has access to funding and resources,” said Commission President Dardis. “Our residents should be reassured that this act is one of many strategies the city is utilizing to minimize any possible risk or impact of flooding.”
Issuing an emergency declaration allows local governments to manage resources and funding under conditions that are not normally budgeted or anticipated. It is also the first step in preparing to request resources for county, state and federal agencies that may be necessary.
“A multifunctional team has been preparing and monitoring flooding conditions for weeks,” said Dardis. “After reviewing the measures necessary to continue proactive flood risk mitigation we made the decision to issue this declaration.”
During the March 18, 2019, West Fargo City Commission meeting, the Board of Commissioners also approved the issuance of a 2019 Spring Melt RFQ for engineering services. The selected contractor will assist with monitoring, surveying, reporting and technical services. While it is still unclear what the extent of the 2019 event will be, the RFQ will allow the city to identify firms to assist with any efforts needed based on the severity and longevity of the event.
Dardis was also named the commission flood liaison during the meeting to act as the main point of contact for staff. The West Fargo City Commission is expected to vote to confirm the emergency declaration during the regular April 1 commission meeting.
Spring melt preparations
According to City of West Fargo Public Works director Chris Brungardt, crews have been preparing the city’s infrastructure to ensure water is properly channeled throughout the system during the spring melt for weeks. These actions have included clearing storm drains, ensuring diversion gates are operational, installing sonic gauges to monitor river flows, servicing and testing equipment like pumps and generators, and securing additional equipment and supplies in case sandbags and emergency structures are needed.
West Fargo is protected by the Sheyenne River Diversion Flood Control Projects that were put in place in 1992 and they have successfully protected West Fargo through historic floods, such as the events in 1997 and 2009. The City of West Fargo and Southeast Cass Water Resource District continuously monitors and evaluates the condition of the flood control system during the spring melt, including the diversion, river banks and levees, and prepare multiple contingencies to respond to any risks.
While the diversion completely channels water around the city north of I-94, water is still allowed to flow through the Sheyenne River south of I-94. The condition of theses riverbanks are critical to contain the flows of the river and require extensive monitoring during the spring melt.
Request for citizens
When it comes to spring flooding there are a few actions citizens can take to help minimize the risk.
“The biggest thing is to quickly and consistently keep the storm drains clear,” said Brungardt. “This ensures water is flowing into the system at an even pace. Otherwise, we see a large influx of water that can cause backups throughout the system. Our team has been working to clear the drains throughout the city, but any assistance from our citizens helps.”
Property owners are also required to ensure all sump pumps are discharging outside by Monday, April 1. Brungardt recommends pushing snow away from foundations to ensure foundations and basements don’t become over saturated, which could result in damage.
For residents with homes that border the Sheyenne River, it is also imperative to notify the City of West Fargo of any changes that have been made to the river bank. Berms and dikes have been placed on many of these properties to protect against flooding but any changes to these and the river bank could lead to flooding. Additionally, homeowners who have blocked culverts or drains on their property need to remove the devices or contact the City of West Fargo to report them.
To report any changes to river banks, berms or dikes, please contact the Public Works Department at (701) 433-5400 or email them at email@example.com. The City of West Fargo will also assist citizens with sandbags on a case-by-case basis. Residents who feel their property needs sandbags should also contact Public Works to submit a request.
“As a final request, I’d like to encourage all of the residents of West Fargo to contribute to the sandbagging efforts in the City of Fargo, City of Moorhead and Cass County,” said Dardis. “I’ve seen the amazing things that can be accomplished when we all takes action and now is the time to support our greater community.”