FACES OF THE DIVERSION: Lora Orth, General Laborer, Ames Construction

For years, Lora Orth worked as a Hospice nurse. She spent her workdays comforting and caring for those in their last days. Time after time, she became attached to those for whom she cared, and day after day, she ended her shift in tears.

The stress became too much, and it was time for a change.

Lora turned to construction, first working inside nuclear power plants before joining Ames Construction’s effort to build portions of the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion. Once complete in 2027, the diversion will protect 235,000 people who are currently at risk of flood damage – something many have experienced already. The Red River, which flows north along the North Dakota and Minnesota border, and its tributaries flooded all but one year between 1993 and 2013.

Rather than supporting death, Lora is now bringing life to a project that will protect Fargo, North Dakota, Moorhead, Minnesota, and the surrounding communities.

“I love my job,” she says. “I don’t cry every day. I like it here.”

“Here” is the Diversion Inlet Structure south of Fargo, where Lora is learning concrete work alongside her experienced colleagues. When the structure is completed, they will have placed 11,700 cubic yards of concrete – nearly enough to fill four Olympic swimming pools – laced with 1,000 tons of rebar. Three radial-arm Tainter gates spanning 50 feet wide and 26 feet in height will be placed in the structure before its June 2023 completion, at which time the gates will be able to raise and lower to control water levels and prevent flooding.

“You gotta think about that,” Lora says when asked about the people who could be impacted by ongoing floods. “If you were here when it was going to flood …” she trails off as she considers those who have battled past floods to save their homes and livelihoods. “It’s really cool,” she adds about her job to prevent that stress and damage from occurring again.

Lora rents an apartment in Moorhead, Minnesota, inserting herself fully into the local community on weekdays but joining her husband at their home to the east, in St. Cloud, Minnesota, on weekends.

She may still be a newbie, but Ames Project Safety Manager Kody Olson says she “has been a wonderful asset to our team.”

“She’s committed to keeping our site and crews safe,” Olson says. “She works well with our team. She’s great at her job. I’ve enjoyed working alongside Lora to achieve the same goals.” Ames Construction, a full-service heavy civil and industrial general contractor, was chosen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct the Diversion Inlet Structure, Wild Rice River Control Structure and related infrastructure as part of the FM Area Diversion project. The Metro Flood Diversion Authority is the governing authority managing the FM Area Diversion. The project is designed to provide permanent, reliable flood protection to the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area. Construction on the FM Area Diversion began in 2017 with expected completion of the project by 2027. For more information about the MFDA, visit FMDiversion.gov.

Lora Orth, a general laborer with Ames Construction, pauses for a photo at the Diversion Inlet Control Structure. When completed, the structure will be part of a series of structures, roads and bridges designed to prevent flood damage in Fargo, North Dakota, Moorhead, Minnesota, and the surrounding communities. (Photo courtesy of the Metro Flood Diversion Authority)