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Keeping the ‘Red’ out

Keeping the ‘Red’ out

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    Above: When the flood of 1997 hit, 90% of East Grand Forks' residents and 75% of Grand Forks'residents were forced to evacuate. Right: About 2200 acres in the sister cities area were converted to a greenway after the 1997 flood. It includes picnic and playground areas, golf courses, sledding hills, fishing sites, a rock dam, and more than 14 miles of bike and pedestrian trails. Photos: City of Grand Forks

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    Above: This obelisk (pictured during spring 2005 flooding) is a flood memorial indicating all of the great Red River floods. The peak indicates the level of the 1997 flood.

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    Historic St. Anne's/St, Michael's was almost sacrificed to the floods. The idea to build a porch that also serves as a floodwall made it possible to save the building.

Saving St. Anne's

The location of the historic St. Anne's/St. Michael's hospital building near a potential landslide area prevented building either a levee or a floodwall between the river and the historic building. Demolishing the building to make room for the levee appeared to be the only option. But no one involved with the project wanted to lose the building, especially since it had recently been rehabilitated into a home for Grand Forks' senior citizens.

‘That was a trying time for us,” said Mark Walker, Grand Forks' assistant city engineer. “Numerous people worked hard to save the building when it was an empty abandoned shell. It was converted to senior housing prior to the flood. Now that it had been rehabbed, it was a much tougher decision to tear it down. There was a problem associated with every alternative that would save it. It seemed like the wrecking ball was the only option.”

The city asked the Corps to take one last look at how the building could be saved. At the last minute, Stanley Consultants developed a solution that saved the building, provided the residents with a new amenity, and cost less to construct than any other alternative previously presented.

The approach called for a floodwall that looks like a porch. The floodwall will protect the building and provide level access to the residents who want to sit outside and watch the river. This solution also resolved a firefighting safety issue, since it allows access to the balcony through a window, allows firefighters use of the balcony during a fire, and won't trap firefighters in the event of a building collapse.

The Grand Forks Historical Commission reviewed and approved the concept's details. “It was an excellent solution that saved a historically significant building,” said Walker.