No Action

With the No Action alternative, which it is assumed that no project would be implemented by the federal government to achieve the planning objectives. The No Action alternative forms the basis against which all other alternative plans are measured. The No Action alternative was described in detail in Chapter 2. Critical assumptions in defining the no action alternative include:

  • Emergency flood fighting activities would continue to occur
  • Emergency flood fighting measures have low reliability
  • A failure of emergency measures could result in loss of life
  • Urban areas will expand into the floodplain
  • Development in the floodplain will comply with floodplain regulations; floodplain development will be elevated above the FEMA 1-percent chance event in accordance with local standards
  • Equivalent expected annual damages greater than $194.8 million will continue

(Final Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement, July 2011, Section: 3.2.1, Page 31) (Large download)

Future Without Project condition (No Action alternative)

Without a comprehensive flood risk management project in the area, the metropolitan region will continue to be subject to flooding and will rely on emergency responses to ensure the safety of the community. These emergency efforts will eventually be overwhelmed, and the area could experience a disaster similar to the 1997 flood in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. A disaster of that magnitude would cause significant damage and would impact the entire region. It is expected that the average annual damages of more than $194.8 million will continue and increase as a result of additional development between the 1-percent chance and 0.2-percent chance flood elevations.

The Oakport, MN levee project is the only major levee project that will be completed in the metropolitan area in the near future. The city of Fargo has developed plans for a Southside levee project, however those plans have been put on hold indefinitely, pending the outcome of this feasibility study. It is possible that without a federal project the Southside levee plan could be pursued in the future, but it would face many challenges before being realized. It is assumed that the Southside project is not in place for the future without-project condition. This is consistent with guidance in IWR 88-R-2, National Economic Development Procedures Manual – Urban Flood Damage, Volume 1, Page VI-3, paragraph 6 which states: “If local action is planned to occur only as the result of no federal action, the project should not be assumed as part of the “without” condition. Local interests should not be penalized for their own incentive.”

It is anticipated that the metropolitan communities will continue to use best practices and make minor modifications to enhance their overall flood risk management whenever possible. This includes construction of short sections of levees and floodwalls that do not tie into high ground but would be augmented with emergency measures. Communities downstream on the Minnesota side, including Georgetown, Perley and Hendrum, are planning to construct levees to bolster their flood defenses if funding for the projects can be obtained.

Local communities and the Corps are also evaluating efforts to reduce flood stages through upstream water storage. Phase 1 of the Corps’ Fargo-Moorhead and Upstream feasibility study determined that stage reductions up to about 1.6 feet could be obtained using storage during a 1-percent chance event, but the economic benefits would not likely support federal participation solely for flood risk management. The study is now considering the potential for ecosystem restoration and looking for synergistic solutions to both flooding and historic loss of native aquatic habitat. It is anticipated that some impoundments will be constructed by non-federal entities in the upstream watershed, however, reductions to flood stages in the Fargo-Moorhead area would be relatively small. For purposes of this feasibility study and evaluating the economics of alternatives, we cannot assume that upstream flood retention will be built in the future to a sufficient extent to significantly reduce the flood risk in the study area.

(Final Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement, July 2011, Section: 2.3.4, Pages 27 & 28)(Large download)