Flood-threatened North Dakota town lets businesses reopen

Thursday, April 23rd 2009, 11:40 am
By: News 9

FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- Parts of North Dakota recently threatened by river flooding have begun to clean up in hopes of quickly returning to business as usual.
   Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said Wednesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would begin removing clay dikes throughout the city on Thursday. The corps has also agreed to remove sandbags from the yards of about 600 homes.
   "Everybody wants to return to normal as quickly as possible. Is four weeks normal? It's a big event," Walaker said. "We have 3 1/2 million sandbags out there. It's going to take some time."
   In Valley City, about 50 miles from Fargo, Mayor Mary Lee Nielson lifted an order that required nonessential businesses to close after the sewer system failed last Friday.
   Nielson said Wednesday that residents in the town of about 7,000 still were being asked to use portable toilets because the sewer system was not fully back to normal.
   "We thought the most important thing to do was try to help our downtown people and try to get our money in our businesses again," Nielson said.
   Leaders in cities hit by record crests on the Red and Sheyenne rivers also were planning to create permanent flood protection.
   Fargo city leaders want to hold a special election in June to vote on a half-cent sales tax that would help pay for the protection. The City Commission was expected to approve the resolution this month.
   Nielson also said she wants something similar for her residents, many of whom have fled the town because of the swollen Sheyenne.
   "We're not quite at the point that Fargo is right now. We're just in preliminary discussions. We have to figure out how much it might cost first. But we need to do something," she said.
   Valley City and parts of eastern North Dakota continued to keep a watch on the Sheyenne, which was being held back by sandbag dikes in some rural areas. The National Weather Service said the river at Valley City had fallen to less than 19 feet, still more than three feet above flood stage. It had risen to more than 20 feet.
   "We still have some concerns out there. How serious they are, I can't say at this point," Cass County Sheriff's Sgt. DuWayne Nitschke said. "People have done all they can to prepare for it."