Heavy equipment operates in construction site.

Project’s Winter Progress Highlighted

ByTara Ekren /

The Forum of Fargo – Moorhead highlighted the progress the FM Area Diversion project made over our unseasonably warm winter.


How did the mild winter affect F-M diversion channel construction?

Over the winter, the Red River Valley Alliance made significant progress on the concrete structures along the diversion channel.


FARGO — An unseasonably warm winter set construction on the $3.2 billion metro flood control project slightly ahead of schedule, with crews working around the clock to excavate land and pour concrete along the project’s 30-mile diversion channel.


Joel Paulsen, Metro Flood Diversion Authority executive director, said the warm winter with little snow was especially beneficial to construction of structures along the diversion channel, like bridges, drain inlets and aqueducts.


“In my 20 years of construction here locally, I don’t think I’ve ever seen heavy civil concrete pours throughout the entire winter,” Paulson said. “That was really good as far as allowing the developer the chance to get ahead of schedule a little bit.”


Over the mild winter, the Red River Valley Alliance, the international consortium of private construction companies that is partnered with the Metro Flood Diversion Authority, made significant progress on the concrete structures along the diversion channel, Paulsen said.


One of the structures crews got ahead on was the Maple River aqueduct, which will allow the Maple River to cross over the diversion channel. Crews poured nearly 8,000 cubic yards of concrete at the structure through the winter, said Greg Yavicoli, construction manager at ASN Constructors, the construction arm of the Red River Valley Alliance.

Cranes pouring concrete and workers leveling out concrete.
Concrete is poured for the Maple River Aqueduct.


“We were given this record El Nino winter, and we took advantage of that and turned around the schedule on the structures work,” Yavicoli said.


Crews also made progress on excavating the diversion channel, but warm temperatures did create a challenge. When temperatures were below freezing, the ground was easy to dig, but once they rose above freezing, the top layer of ground became very slick.


“The best way I can explain to someone is toothpaste on ice,” said Yavicoli. “It just turns into slop, and our trucks simply cannot run on that anymore.”


Crews dug through the night and paused during the day, when temperatures rose above freezing. Once temperatures rise in the spring and summer, the slippery ground will no longer be an issue for crews as water evaporates, Yavicoli said.


Heavy equipment operates in construction site.
Construction of the FM Area Diversion channel at the Reach 7 site, between West Fargo and Mapleton off of County Road 10 on April 4, 2024. Chris Flynn / The Forum

Of the 30 miles of diversion channel, crews have at least started excavating 20 miles. Overall, developers expect to move 45 million cubic yards of dirt from the diversion channel. So far, they have moved 19 million cubic yards of dirt.


Construction on Army Corps of Engineers portions of the project are also on schedule, Paulsen said. The Corps is overseeing construction on the 22-mile earthen embankment and the three control structures included in the project. Crews are actively working on the Red River control structure and finishing the Wild Rice River control structure. The inlet structure was completed in October 2023 and turned over to the Diversion Authority.


There was very little downtime through the winter, Paulsen said, especially compared to the previous winter. During the winter of 2022-23, multiple blizzards stalled construction, and extreme cold temperatures were hard on the equipment. Then, in the spring, flooding near Argusville and Harwood also halted construction for about two and a half weeks.


“You just never know any given year what the flood situation is going to be and how much snow you’re going to get over the winter,” Paulsen said. “So far, it’s been very, very conducive to construction on the diversion.”


The project is on schedule for substantial completion in 2027 and final completion in 2028, he said.


Over the winter, about 450 people were working on the diversion, Yavicoli said. This summer, that number will nearly double to 800.

Two people walking on construction site toward large, heavy equipment.
Workers on the C crew begin their night shift building the FM Area Diversion channel at the Reach 7 site between West Fargo and Mapleton on April 4, 2024. ASN Constructors, the company building the channel, operates three crews, A, B, and C, alternating day shifts and night shifts. This was day four of the C shift’s eight-day night shift. Chris Flynn / The Forum


Into the spring and summer, crews will be building bridge decks for some county roads that pass over the diversion channel. Yavicoli said the Sheyenne River aqueduct, which will allow the Sheyenne River to cross over the diversion channel, will also be a priority. Bridge construction will also begin on Interstates 94 and 29.


“I think this summer and next summer will be two of the most active summers, where we’ll have basically construction on all components of the diversion channel,” Paulsen said.


Work on a few in-town pieces of the project will also be starting in the summer, including capacity upgrades on lift stations in Fargo. Moorhead is also planning to bid some flood control projects in the spring to complete the remaining parts of its in-town flood protection, Paulsen said.


By Ingrid Harbo

Published on April 8, 2024



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