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Fargo-Moorhead flood control project advances amid worker shortage

Construction is well underway on large concrete and metal structures that will control the flow of water during major flood events. Last week workers began the process of assembling and installing the three 50foot wide gates that will manage the flow of flood water into the diversion channel. Its kind of a milestone day for the project said Duane Perkins lead structural engineer on the project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as he watched a half dozen workers maneuver a section of one gate with a crane. Large metal gates in this structure near Horace N.D. will control the flow of floodwater into a 30milelong Red River diversion channel when the project is completed in 2027. Dan Gunderson MPR News

This part of the project is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The water that will eventually flow through these gates will enter a 30milelong channel built by a private contractor. The $1 billion channel is the private portion of this publicprivate partnership designed to speed construction. The channel construction will need as many as 1000 workers said Rick Holweger with ASN constructors. You could look at it as a bell curve. Itll go to a peak gradually and then gradually come down he said. So 800 to 1000 people wont be flocking to the FargoMoorhead area. And wed really like to use as much local talent as possible. The jobs range from engineers to heavy equipment operators to laborers. The goal is to hire at least half of those workers locally and 15 percent of workforce must be apprentices. Finding hundreds of workers might be a challenge in an area with two percent unemployment and employers looking for thousands of workers. A worker prepares parts for the assembly on April 27 of a structure near Horace N.D. that will control the flow of floodwater into a diversion channel when the project is completed. Dan Gunderson MPR News

At a recent briefing for local lawmakers FargoMoorhead Diversion Authority Executive Director Joel Paulson said finding enough workers is a concern but hes confident the contractor will find creative ways to fill the jobs. And I think the underlying thing that gives me a little comfort is that the developer has so much money tied up into this contract that they cant afford to lose on this contract. They cant afford to not meet their schedule said Paulson who also remains confident the diversion will be ready for a spring flood in 2027. Work on digging the 30milelong channel and building the 18 bridges and two aqueducts that will act as bridges to carry Red River tributaries across the channel will start later this summer.


The Fargo region now has about seven thousand job openings. A few hundred of those are in construction trades according to Carey Fry with Job Service North Dakota. Filling the diversion project jobs will likely be a multiyear effort. Its not going to be like theyre going to hire all those people at once right at the beginning you know what I mean? So its going to be over time. And Im hoping that that will help alleviate some of that crazy crunch time for hiring the people for the diversion she said. The project was delayed by several years of legal challenges which are now resolved allowing construction to begin in earnest. FargoMoorhead isnt the only place construction workers are in high demand.


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