There are a few things I’ve never figured out: the “Please Call Again” signs which hang from a door of a facility you’re exiting, why two cheeseburgers are cheaper than a McDouble (no cheese, one bun) at McDonalds, the concept of fire drills, which continuously instill a lackadaisical attitude about an emergency situation, and why using the front doors of homes in America is such a rarity. All of these tiny wonders bounce around my non-understanding mind which I’m easily able to shrug off. Who really cares, right? But one huge problem continues to resurface, leaving me – along with the rest of the F-M community – bewildered year after year: our redundant flood scenario.
The most recent predictions indicated a 50% chance of the river reaching 37.3 feet, 10% chance it could reach 42.6 feet in the metro area (in 2009, the river’s crest reached 40.82, 37 feet in 2010). “Sandbag central” the last two years (and likely this year as well) seems to draw a crowd larger than our local fairs, ball games and other events – the fun ones. Residents of this community have been bending over – a lot – to lend a hand at filling thousands of these bags per year (70,000 per day last year, hoping for 100,000-150,000 this year).
Each year, great minds devise new ways to help our community sandbag quicker, easier and more efficiently. New tools are invented to help in the process of packing sand in bags so we can distribute them throughout the town, just like the year before and the year before that. We now have new options of TrapBags, AquaFences, AquaDams, Fiberweb honeycomb material, and scoops to make sandbagging easier than the typical shovel-and-a-bag “buddy-up” process. The “spider” machines (which fill an average of 3,500 sandbags per hour with the help of 60 volunteers) are nothing new to annual volunteers. In fact, Cass County just approved a purchase of its own spider machine ($34,000) after Moorhead purchased two of the machines just last year. People have even gone so far as to make sandbagging more of an uplifting experience by stenciling patterns into several thousands of the bags to encourage volunteers when a “brighter bag” crosses their path during the wee hours of the morning.
But even with the newly purchased alternatives to the sandbags, Fargo still has a goal of filling 3 million sandbags (which the city is paying nearly $20,000 to store), and Moorhead hopes to fill and tie 500,000 bags for the protection of their city.
While these are all great things that help serve as temporary protection, I’m left wondering why we’re spending so much on new (temporary) products and sandbags year after year. After several years of flooding, how can such a large community packed with hard working, smart individuals still be struggling to come up with a more permanent solution to hold back the Mighty Red?
Although some changes have been made – some higher, more permanent dikes have been placed strategically in areas, and many homes have undergone the buyout program in efforts to make this city safer and the flood process less dramatic – our city continues to blow money, brainpower and energy on temporary protection. Why are we spending such a large amount of money on provisional solutions – especially ones that are incredibly inconvenient, dangerous and often times painful for our community? Where are the engineers, what is our plan of action, and how much longer until that plan is completely implemented?
Understandably, the magnitude of the project requires a lot of careful planning, but shouldn’t a more ‘permanent’ solution have been in effect by now?
Maybe next year. Until then, get in line, flood fiends. It’s time to volunteer. Again.
Shootin’ the Wit is a column about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.