What is the Project

The FM Area Diversion Project is designed to protect the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo metro area during times of extreme flooding. The Project will prevent catastrophic flooding with a few major components.

River Control Structures

During times of extreme flooding, concrete structures with radial-arm flood gates will control the levels of water flowing into the metro area through the Red and Wild Rice Rivers.

In-town Protection

The project also includes floodwalls, levees, and other flood protection measures in Fargo and Moorhead to allow up to 37-feet of water to run through town. The Red River reaches flood stage at 18 feet at the Fargo gage.

Southern Embankment

During times of extreme flooding, the control structures limit the flow of flood water through town. The Southern Embankment will keep the flood waters out of the metro area. Water will back up behind the Southern Embankment structureand be directed west toward the Diversion Channel.

Upstream Mitigation Area

When the Project operates during extreme flood events, the retention of flood waters upstream of the Southern Embankment will create an area that must be properly mitigated. Mitigation includes many different components including the purchase of property rights. Read more about mitigation here.

How was this plan chosen?

This plan was chosen after years of diligent study, public input and joint cooperation between the city of Fargo; the city of Moorhead; Cass County, North Dakota; Clay County, Minnesota; the Joint Cass Water Resource District; and the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District.

It was changed in 2018 after a Task Force met to review flooding issues and discuss solutions. The Task Force was convened by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton.

Learn more about how the plan was chosen.

How big of a flood is it designed for?

The FM Diversion would reduce a 100-year flood event from 42.4 feet to 37 feet at the Fargo gage. For reference, the 2009 flood of record peaked at 40.8 feet.

Though not designed to prevent a 500-year flood event, the FM Diversion would give the area a chance by reducing the river level.

Why is the Project Needed?

The Project will protect more than 235,000 people from potentially catastrophic flooding

100-year flood event with existing conditions

The Red River flows North to Canada. This, combined with the natural melting cycle, early spring rains, frost depth, soil moisture and ice conditions on the river, creates a threat of flooding  on a regular basis.

Great progress has been made to protect the communities in the Fargo-Moorhead area, but there are still gaps remain in the line of protection. The Fargo-Moorhead Metro area cannot achieve accredited 100-year flood protection with levees and floodwalls alone. The FM Area Diversion Project can provide protection from catastrophic floods and changing FEMA floodplain maps.

The Red River begins to flood and water flows North, threatening Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo and metro area communities

As water comes from the upper parts of the drainage basin, including the Red River and from tributary rivers, the Diversion Authority will begin making preparations to operate the Project. Project operation will only happen in times of extreme flooding.

Red River Control Structure set to 37 feet

Radial-arm flood gates are lowered to limit the amount of flood waters that enter the metro area, allowing up to 37-feet of water during a 100-year flood through town in the Red River

Flood waters backup behind the Southern Embankment

As flood waters are allowed to pass through the Red River and Wild Rice River Control Structures, the amount of flood waters in the metro area are controlled to a safe level. Additional flood water will then back up behind the Southern Embankment.

Waters behind the Southern Embankment flow West and enter the Diversion Channel

The Diversion Channel Inlet Structure is located south of Horace North Dakota. Although some floodwater will drain naturally into the Red River and the Wild Rice River, under a 100-year flood event, the Diversion Channel allows 20,000 cubic feet of water per second to flow safely around the community.

Flood waters safely pass around the Metro Area in the river bed and Diversion Channel

As 37-feet of floodwaters move through the natural river bed, various levees and floodwalls throughout the metro area provide protection to the citizens, businesses, and community.

Project Operation Ends, Post–Operation Cleanup

Cleaning up after the floodwaters have passed is an important part of Project Operation. Details of planned cleanup activities are included in the Mitigation Plan.

How is it funded?

The updated funding plan includes a combination of current and proposed commitments that, if secured, would result in the following breakdown: 

  • $750 Million from the federal government ($450M existing and $300M requested)
  • $870 Million from the state of North Dakota ($570M existing and $300M requested)
  • $1,044 Million from the local sponsors funded through existing sales taxes
  • $86 Million to be requested from the state of Minnesota. ($43M for continued work in-town to pay for Plan B changes in MN and another $43M for project work)

How much will it cost?

The total estimated cost of the project is $2.75 Billion (2018$).

The Diversion Authority has reviewed the following estimates for project costs:

  • $502 Million for Lands and Impacted Property Mitigation
  • $989 Million for the Channel / P3
  • $703 Million for USACE / Southern Embankment and Associated Infrastructure
  • $266 Million for levees and other In-town projects in Fargo and Moorhead
  • $44 Million for Other Mitigation Construction
  • $250 Million for Non-Construction Costs

Special Assessment District Information

Overview of the Special Assessment District

The Cass County Joint Water Resource District (“CCJWRD”) proceeded with the creation of the FM FLOOD RISK MANAGEMENT DISTRICT NO. 1 (District) to finance a portion of North Dakota’s local share of the FM Area Diversion Project. Following a successful vote to create the District in April of 2015, CCJWRD followed the process well-defined in state law and held an Assessment Hearing in June of 2017 to afford affected landowners the opportunity to submit any comments or objections they had regarding the methodology used to apportion benefits and create the assessment list that was the subject of the assessment vote.  CCJWRD considered all comments and objections submitted, made some modifications to the assessment list, and ultimately approved a final assessment list to conclude the assessment district process.  Below are links to the final Technical Memorandum documenting the consideration of public comments and the subsequent changes to the assessment methodology, along with links for the Final Assessment List and final Benefit Region map.

Pre-2018 Special Assessment District Information

Sales Tax to pay for the Project

As you know, voters in Fargo and Cass County previously voted in favor of separate sales taxes to fund the Project. However, the pace of sales tax collection will not match the pace of the costs of the project development and construction. With that in mind, the local project sponsors will have to borrow funds to keep pace with Project development, and repay the debt with sales tax proceeds. With that in mind, the local project sponsors determined creation of the FM FLOOD RISK MANAGEMENT DISTRICT NO. 1 assessment district will provide an effective financing tool for the Project, with more favorable borrowing terms (lower interest rates and lower coverage requirements) than alternative financing options. The local project sponsors anticipate sales tax proceeds will provide adequate revenue to repay the financing debt and annual payments on the assessment district.

In other words, CCJWRD does not intend to levy actual assessments against the properties within the FM FLOOD RISK MANAGEMENT DISTRICT NO. 1 assessment district as long as sales tax revenues are sufficient.

Previous Assessment Packets and Information



Educational Videos about the Project

Interactive Project Webmap