About the Project

The Need

North Dakota has the second highest inland flood risk in the United States, behind Louisiana, and the Red River in Fargo exceeded flood stage every year from 1993-2011 – not that those were the only years our community experienced flooding. Flood events have worsened over time, with seven of the 10 largest flood events having occurred in the past 25 years.

The 1997 flood, which set a record at that time when it crested at 39.72 feet, caused $3.5 billion in damages – more than the entire cost of constructing the FM Area Diversion. In 2009, Fargo-Moorhead set a new record, cresting at 40.82 feet with the community spending $8.4 million to fight it.

Today, 235,000 people – and their homes, businesses and property – are at risk of catastrophic flooding until the FM Area Diversion is completed.

Project History

Planning for the FM Diversion project started after 1997 flood, which was a record at that time. After numerous studies, permits, Congressional actions and more, the plans are now in place and moving forward. The region is on track to have permanent, reliable flood protection by 2027. Here’s a look at how we got here.

May 1997

Cass County initiates study to find a permanent solution for regional flooding; many more , including from FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, followed

January 2008

Public reviews five project options based on initial studies; soon after, North Dakota and Minnesota declared the states would work together on a solution

Feb 2009

Metro Flood Management Committee forms just before the region breaks its flood record again

January 2010

Fargo half-cent sales tax for flood mitigation projects begins

October 2010

FM leaders choose a plan for the FM Area Diversion project

May 2011

The Metro Flood Management Committee evolves into the Board of Authority

June-July 2012

The Board of Authority approves the first land buyouts and releases a lands management plan

February 2015
The Board of Authority votes to move forward with a private-public partnership to build the Stormwater Diversion Channel and Associated Infrastructure (SWDCAI)
July 2016

The Board of Authority and local member entities sign a Project Partnership Agreement, which marks the beginning of the construction phase with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

April 2017

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractor, Ames Construction, break ground on the Diversion Inlet Structure

August 2019

The Board of Authority hires an executive director to lead the Metro Flood Diversion Authority, Joel Paulsen

November 2019

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awards Ames Construction the bid to build the Wild Rice River Structure

June 2021

The Board of Authority selects the Red River Valley Alliance, a consortium of Acciona, Shikun & Binui and North American Construction Group, as the P3 developer for the comprehensive project

September-November 2021

The Metro Flood Diversion Authority and its P3 partner, Red River Valley Alliance, achieve commercial and financial closing

March 2022

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awards Ames Construction the bid to build the Red River Structure, the largest of the three gated control structures for the comprehensive project



Project Components

Locations of 4 Main Project Components

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How It Will Work

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

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

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

The Diversion Channel Inlet Structure is 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.

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

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.

100-Year Floodplain Maps

Before After Without flood protection

Try Our Floodplain Visualization Tool

Drag the slider left and right to see how flooding will affect the Fargo-Moorhead area with and without the FM Area Diversion.

FM Area Diversion Project Governance Structure


The FM Area Diversion project is a Congressionally authorized federal project using a split-delivery method. This allows two simultaneous construction schedules to complete the Comprehensive Project faster and for less expense.

A Project Partnership Agreement (PPA) between the government (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) and non-federal partners – the Metro Flood Diversion Authority (MFDA)  and the City of Fargo and the City of Moorhead  – serves as the official agreement for the FM Area Diversion construction.

A second agreement , the Joint Powers Agreement, created the Metro Flood Diversion Authority to serve as the primary non-federal sponsor for the Comprehensive Project and establishes the duties, responsibilities, and obligations of the MFDA and its member entities.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is constructing the Southern Embankment and associated infrastructure as well as some mitigation projects.


The MFDA serves as the entity responsible for delivering the Non-Federal Sponsor’s obligations under the PPA and is the local government entity that holds the Project Agreement (P3 Agreement) with the P3 Developer. With the P3 agreement, the MFDA retains ownership and control over requirements and operating standards of the FM Area Diversion and the Red River Valley Alliance (RRVA), the private-sector partner, delivers innovative solutions that align with the MFDA’s technical requirements.

The RRVA, which is a consortium of three acclaimed international companies – Acciona, Shikun & Binui, and North American Construction Group – will build the Stormwater Diversion Channel and its associated infrastructure, including aqueducts, the diversion outlet, and road and railroad crossings.

Red River Valley Alliance

By using a P3, the MFDA moves forward with a fixed-price bid while the RRVA assumes the risks of delays and cost escalation. The partnership also allows for using multiple, long-term financing options as well as performance guarantees and long-term warranties. This sets up the project to be completed for less time and expense than with traditional financing methods.