Defense Media Network

Construction Reaches New Heights on Red River of the North Project [Building Strong® 2020-2021]

BY PATRICK MOES, St. Paul District

Construction literally reached new heights this past summer on the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Area Flood Risk Management Project.

After more than 10 years of planning, investigations, and design by a regional team, the St. Paul District is making historic strides in reducing future flood risk for the more than 230,000 people who live within the Fargo, North Dakota/Moorhead, Minnesota metro area, said Terry Williams, St. Paul District program manager and North Dakota native. The construction efforts are starting to be noticeable, she added.

The construction includes work on the diversion inlet, near Horace, North Dakota, and the Wild Rice River structure, near St. Benedict, North Dakota. The diversion inlet structure construction had been suspended for legal reasons, but Williams said it has since ramped up and reached another major milestone: the first placement of concrete at the site. “It’s a huge day for our project, our design team, and our sponsors,” she said. “It signifies years of hard work by a lot of people to get here, and I am excited to see the structure come out of the ground.”

St. Paul District employees discuss safety considerations during a morning meeting at the construction site near Horace, North Dakota, July 27, 2020.

St. Paul District employees discuss safety considerations during a morning meeting at the construction site near Horace, North Dakota, July 27, 2020. (USACE photo by Patrick Moes)

The concrete work is expected to last into 2021 and will serve as the foundation for three 50-foot-wide control gates that will be used to manage the amount of water that is diverted into the diversion channel and around the metro area. They anticipate needing 11,700 cubic yards of concrete for the inlet project, said Williams.

As the diversion inlet construction makes noticeable strides, the Wild Rice River structure is also making progress. Williams said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and its contractor, Ames Construction, are taking lessons learned from constructing the diversion inlet and incorporating them into the Wild Rice structure. The contractor has excavated approximately 100,000 of the required 800,000 cubic yards of soil in preparation for the foundation and concrete work. Williams said she estimates that both the diversion inlet and Wild Rice projects will be finished in 2023. USACE is also preparing to award three additional construction projects in 2021: construction of the first segment of dam embankment; the Interstate Highway 29 road raise; and the Drain 27 wetland restoration project.

While USACE continues its efforts to design and construct the southern embankment or dam features of the project, it is also working with its partner, the FM Diversion Authority, on finalizing the public-private partnership procurement for the design, build, finance, operation, and maintenance of the 30-mile-long diversion channel. This public-private partnership delivery method allows a contractor to help fund and build the diversion channel faster than traditional construction methods. “The Corps and the Diversion Authority are working collectively to implement this $2.75 billion project,” Williams said. “This approach helps the community receive benefits from the project faster and at a lower cost.”

Williams said the goal is to have the entire project completed in 2027. Once finished, she said, the project will not only protect the people within the metropolitan area but also the economic center of the region and the state of North Dakota. “We talk about this being a regional project and important to the economy, but when you drill down to what it means to a family in the area,” she said, “it means that they will be able to go about their normal lives in the spring – their city will not have to shut down to flood-fight.”

Duane Perkins, St. Paul District lead structural engineer for the project and Breckenridge, Minnesota, native, said he understands what it’s like to deal with flooding. His family home was flooded by the Red River of the North in 1997. “The fear starts somewhere in December or January, when you start seeing heavy snowfalls,” he said. “People start getting worried about how the spring is going to look, whether or not there will be a flood.” He added that the project, once complete, will eliminate a lot of those concerns. “Not having to buy flood insurance, not having to volunteer to fill sandbags for weeks on end, and no longer worrying about the city flooding and people potentially losing their jobs,” he said. “That’s a whole other level of stress that hopefully will be taken care of with this project.”

This article appears in the 2020-2021 edition of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Building Strong®, Serving the Nation and the Armed Forces


The Mississippi Valley Division is responsible for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) water resources programs within 370,000 square miles of the Mississippi River Valley.

The division boundary encompasses the entire Mississippi River from Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico, and includes all or parts of 12 states: Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

District offices located in St. Paul, Minnesota; Rock Island, Illinois; St. Louis, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; Vicksburg, Mississippi; and New Orleans, Louisiana, conduct the programs and activities overseen by the division.

More than 250 tributaries drain into the Mississippi River, the largest of which are the Ohio and Missouri rivers. The 1.25-millionsquare-mile Mississippi River drainage basin (third largest in the

world) gathers water from 41% of the continental United States, including all or parts of 31 states and two Canadian provinces.

Missions throughout the division include:

• Navigation

• Flood risk management

• Environmental stewardship

• Emergency operations

• Real estate management

• Regulatory

• Recreation

• Support for others

• Water supply

• Hydropower

• Hurricane and storm damage risk reduction

• Formerly Utilized Sites Remediation Action Program


The St. Paul District encompasses 139,000 square miles in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa. Four river basins fall under its jurisdiction: the Upper Mississippi River, the Red River of the North, the Souris River, and the Rainy River. The district employs nearly 700 professionals at more than 40 sites within its five-state footprint.

• 4 drainage basins

• 13 locks and dams

• 16 reservoirs

• 49 recreation areas with 650 campsites

• 280 miles of 9-foot navigation channels maintained


The USACE Rock Island District administers federal water resource programs across more than 73,000 square miles of eastern Iowa, northern Illinois, and portions of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Missouri. This area includes 314 miles of the Mississippi River, 268 miles of the Illinois Waterway, and multiple tributaries within the watershed. Approximately 900 professionals are employed with the district at its headquarters building and 27 field office sites.

• 5 river basins: Des Moines, Rock, Iowa/ Cedar, Illinois, and Mississippi

• 5 reservoirs: Saylorville, Red Rock, Coralville, Farmdale, and Fondulac

• 18 lock and dam sites

• 582 miles of navigation channel

• 97 recreation sites with 1,850 campsites, 38 boat ramps, 10 swimming beaches, and 5 visitor centers


Founded in 1872, the St. Louis District is strategically located at the crossroads of three major river systems: the Illinois, Mississippi, and Missouri. The district encompasses some 28,000 square miles, almost equally divided between Illinois and Missouri. The district is responsible for 300 miles of the Mississippi from Saverton, Missouri, to Cairo, Illinois; 80 miles of the Illinois River and 36 miles of the Kaskaskia River; and 87 levees protecting 575,000 acres of economic and agricultural interests in the region. The district employs more than 650 professionals at its headquarters and 12 field office sites.

• 10 rivers

• 5 locks and dams

• 5 reservoirs: Carlyle, Shelbyville, Mark Twain, Rend, and Wappapello

• 750 miles of levees

• 92 flood control systems

• 416 miles of navigable channel

• 70 pumping plants

• 162 recreation areas with 4,141 campsites and 498 picnic sites

• 1 hydropower plant


Founded in 1882, the Memphis District encompasses 25,000 square miles in portions of Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. Eleven major river basins fall under its jurisdiction, including the Mississippi, Ohio, White, and St. Francis rivers, and West Tennessee tributaries. The Memphis District employs approximately 550 professional and skilled employees in its headquarters, Ensley Engineer Yard, area offices, and pumping plants.

• 4 pumping plants

• 11 drainage basins

• 90 flood control structures

• 741 miles of navigable channel

• 1,200 miles of levees, including 640 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees


Founded in 1873, the Vicksburg District encompasses 68,000 square miles in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Seven major river basins fall under its jurisdiction, including the Mississippi, Red, Ouachita, Pearl, and Yazoo rivers. The district employs approximately 1,100 personnel in its district headquarters and 11 field offices.

• 3 hydropower projects

• 8 drainage basins

• 10 major flood control reservoirs with 1,673 miles of shoreline

• 9 locks and dams

• 21 pumping plants

• 478 flood control structures

• 193 recreation areas with 2,084 campsites and 1,846 picnic sites

• 1,808 miles of levees, including 468 along the Mississippi River

• 1,252 miles of navigable channel


The New Orleans District encompasses 30,000 square miles in Louisiana. It employs approximately 1,000 professionals at 33 sites within its area of operations.

• 5 of the nation’s 15 busiest ports

• 14 recreation areas with 30 campsites and 20 picnic sites

• 15 pumping plants

• 18 locks and control structures

• 325 miles of hurricane risk reduction levees

• 973 miles of Mississippi River and tributaries’ levees

• 2,800 miles of navigable waterway

• 8,000 annual regulatory actions



P.O. Box 80 Vicksburg, MS 39181

(601) 634-5760


180 5th Street E., Ste. 700 St. Paul, MN 55101-1678

(651) 290-5807


Clock Tower Building P.O. Box 2004 Rock Island, IL 61204-2004

(800) 799-8302 or (309) 794-4200


1222 Spruce St. St. Louis, MO 63103

(314) 331-8000


167 N. Main St., Room B-202 Memphis, TN 38103-1894

(901) 544-3360


4155 East Clay St. Vicksburg, MS 39183-3435

(601) 631-5000


7400 Leake Ave. New Orleans, LA 70118

(504) 862-2201