Weather Forecast


Officials eye Maple River Dam for future relief

Engineers and contractors are ready to continue work on the Maple River Dam near Enderlin as soon as the frost is out of the ground and the waters slip back between the banks of the river.

That could spare many of the homeowners who spent last week fighting breakout water from the Maple and Sheyenne rivers, which confluence north of West Fargo and southwest of Harwood.

It was that water that damaged outbuildings and basements on several properties along Cass County Road 17.

Moore Engineerings Dave Thompson, who, with county officials, introduced the final plans for the project back in 2004, said the dam would be an essential tool in the flood fighting process, and may be a season too late for those living near the intersection of County Road 20 and County Road 17 north of West Fargo, where the Maple and Sheyenne Rivers meet.

Theres no doubt that the dam will provide some relief in that area, Thompson said. I cant give you and exact number in feet off the top of my head, but to control all of that water thats headed for the Red would obviously have a positive effect.

The proposed 70-foot-high earthen dam in southwestern Cass County is designed to reduce flood damage on about 7,750 acres downstream, including the communities of Argusville, Durbin, Harwood, Mapleton and West Fargo.

According to the Red River Basin Commission, the Maple River Dam is designed as a dry dam so it will only have floodwater storage immediately after a flood event. The flood pool will empty automatically after each flood event through a 66-inch diameter principal spillway system. All flood events will have reduced downstream flows with the project. Floods over a 50 year frequency will be controlled with a 100-foot wide concrete emergency spillway and a 1,200-foot wide earthen emergency spillway system.

Were up about 17-feet above ground, so its at a point where the river obviously has not been blocked, Thompson said. Well be able to bock the river about June 15, and at that point, the dam will be functional.

Thompson said with this being the third-largest flood in the region in modern history, he sees the need for the dam increasing. Projections and studies have shown that flood events like the ones experienced in 1997 and spring of 2001 would have been greatly aided by the dam.

County officials have said so much water coming from snowpack and ice in the fields rushing to the tributaries of the Red southwest of West Fargo, including the Sheyenne and the Maple, have historically flooded the area where the Maple and the Sheyenne meet.

Construction will continue on the dam throughout this summer, beyond the initial operations stage. Full operation is expected by fall of this year.

This isnt going to be a 1997 experience, but were really getting close, Dennis Walaker, Fargo Operations Director, said. And in those outlying areas, theyre in a position where they might experience something worse because of the speed of the water.