Afloat of the flood
This year, the city of West Fargo is starting its flood fighting efforts comfortably ahead of the first snow melt, as temperatures at Monday night's city commission meetings were well below zero.
Still, Mayor Rich Mattern knows that, when it comes to tackling an impending flood, there's no time like the present.
"There's always going to be little things that we need to do, so we want to get ahead of that," he said, during a phone interview with the Pioneer.
City commission members unanimously approved a declaration of emergency at Monday's meeting. Though warm weather and the resulting deluge may be months away, Mattern said the measure was necessary in order to start the process of getting federal funding for the possible expenditures from a flood fight.
"We'll probably get the crews out again soon to monitor all the bridges," he said. "That costs money, so hopefully we can get that back."
West Fargo's emergency declaration comes nearly two weeks after Fargo and Cass County issued their own declarations Jan. 18. That same day, the National Weather Service projected a 20-percent to 25-percent chance that Fargo-area residents could see Red River flooding that approaches record levels set in the spring of 2009, when waters crested at 40.84 feet in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
Although West Fargo has emerged from the past few springs largely unscathed thanks to its own Sheyenne River diversion, it still is good to stay on top of the ball, Mattern said.
To do this, the city is planning to open lines of communication. Mattern said West Fargo will begin putting material on its website, www.westfargond.gov, "and (move) forward with some of those information items."
His hope is that staying proactive will help West Fargo residents keep informed, while also stemming any misinformation.
"What has happened in the past a lot, for some reason, when we get into the thick of things...we start hearing these rumors about diversion not working or going to fail," Mattern said. "For example, we go out and are pumping out a ditch or doing regular maintenance work, and people jump to conclusions and think something is wrong.
"We're going to try to get ahead of that game, if possible."
Mattern is encouraging residents to follow the city's website, and also sign up for West Fargo Public Works' Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/West-Fargo-Public-Works/298389028885.
"I understand people are nervous," Mattern said. "The more information we get out there, the better."