Ask A Researcher

February 2017

Effects of Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion on Spring Planting for Producers

Dean Bangsund is an economist in the NDSU Dept. of Agribusiness and Applied Economics. He specializes in Impact Assessment, and has over 25 years of experience conducting applied economic research. David Saxowsky is an Associate Professor in the NDSU Dept. of Agribusiness and Applied Economics specializing in agricultural law and management..

Researchers in the North Dakota State University Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics have studied, in cooperation with the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Authority, the risk and economic impact of temporarily retaining or staging floodwater on agricultural land south of the Fargo-Moorhead community when the proposed FM Diversion is operated.  In this article, Dean and David answer some questions on how the FM Diversion might affect spring planting activities for agricultural producers operating within the Diversion’s staging area.

Can you provide a brief overview of how the Diversion might affect agricultural producers?

The proposed Fargo-Moorhead (FM) Area Diversion is intended to reduce damages due to the Red River and its tributaries flooding in southeastern North Dakota and west central Minnesota. Operating the Diversion will temporarily store as much as 150,000 acre-feet of water on 64,000 acres primarily agricultural land -- south of the FM community (staging area). The water will continue its northerly flow through the community by 1) following the Red River whose capacity is being enhanced with permanent flood protection, and 2) flowing around the west side of the community in a ditch to be constructed as part of the Diversion project.

Temporary water storage will create several issues: a need for farmers to relocate buildings, equipment and grain storage; additional travel costs for farmers if their farmstead has been relocated outside the storage area; soil erosion; loss of future development opportunities; wet soils that delay or prevent planting; and a possible impact on the availability of Federal crop insurance for agricultural land in the storage area.

How often could producers be affected?

Some effects may be incurred every year, such as having to transport equipment and production inputs into the staging area, and transport harvested crops out of the staging area for on-farm storage.

Other effects may only occur when operating the Diversion uses the staging area. The frequency of flooding is generally based on annual probabilities. The annual chance of a large flood occurring in any given year is lower than the likelihood of a smaller flood. Flood size is usually based on water volumes measured by flow rates on rivers and tributaries, and crest heights indicating the elevation of the flood waters.

The Diversion will be operated only when the river flow reaches 17,000 cubic feet per second at Fargo. Since 1969, there have been 10 floods of sufficient flow in the Fargo/Moorhead area to have triggered use of the FM Diversion's staging area; there were no such flood events between 1943 and 1968. All of these 10 events have been spring floods due to snowmelt and spring rain; none of these events occurred due to summer rain, for example. Three of the 10 large flood events, however, have occurred in the last eight years (2009-2016).

Compared to historical data, the region has experienced more frequent flooding in recent years. No one knows whether the recent frequency of flooding will continue or if the spring runoffs will return to more historical frequencies.

How often the Diversion and the staging area will be operated is impossible to predict precisely, yet frequency of flood events is critically important when addressing potential economic effects.

Will all producers experience the same effects?

No. Land elevations are different and flood sizes vary. Land with lower elevations will flood sooner and be inundated longer relative to land with higher elevations. Some land in the storage area is at sufficiently high elevations that only very large floods (e.g., 100-year flood) will inundate those tracts. In other cases, tracts of land would flood in the absence of the diversion and the diversion may have no effect on the length of inundation. Engineers project, however, that operating the Diversion will extend the inundation of some tracts, as well as inundate tracts that would not otherwise flood. Which tracts are affected by the operation of the Diversion will vary based on the magnitude of the flood event.

Also, depending upon crop rotation, effects relating to the timing of planting activities will be different among different crops. In any given flood year, tracts of land that farmers intended to grow soybeans are expected to be less impacted than tracts intended to grow sugar beets or corn, due to the later planting time of soybeans, for example.

It is possible in flood years that general planting conditions in the region will be delayed far enough into the spring that producers within the staging area are not disadvantaged compared to producers not in the staging area.

What were the range of effects observed in the study?

Effects on planting activities were estimated to range from "no effect" to "planting was prevented."

The challenge, however, is comparing "the impact of a flood without the Diversion" to "the impact of a flood event with the Diversion." The consequence of constructing and operating the Diversion is only the difference between those two sets of impacts. Care must be taken to not compare "the outcome of a flood with the Diversion" to "the outcome when there is no flood."

No one statement can describe the impact of operating the diversion. For each flood event, the impact of operating the Diversion will place each tract of land into one of five categories: 1) no impact because the land floods for the same time without or with the Diversion, 2) no impact because the land will not flood whether or not the Diversion is operated, 3) no adverse impact because the Diversion shortens the time that water inundates the tract of land due to enhanced drainage as part of the Diversion project, 4) possible adverse impact because operating the Diversion extends the duration of the inundation, and 5) possible adverse impact because operating the Diversion will cause the land to flood whereas it would otherwise not be inundated by that particular flood event. These last two categories draw the most attention.

If flood size varies, timing of floods vary, the elevation of the flood crest varies, and producers raise different crops; how are all the variables handled in the study?

The study used a simulation approach that allowed the timing of flooding and timing of spring planting to be driven by historical data. The simulation modeling was performed with 10,000 replications - each replication representing a potential year - using five flood sizes. Key variables in the simulation that were allowed to vary in each replication included:

  • Timing of the flood — date when the Diversion would be activated and the lowest tracts of the staging area would begin to be inundated
  • Date when spring planting could begin — estimated for both "without Diversion" and "with Diversion" conditions
  • Yield loss — relationship among "optimal planting time and optimal yield", "expected planting time and yield without the Diversion", and "delayed planting time due to operation of the Diversion and estimated yield loss"
  • Planting rate — the pace at which crops can be planted and whether the planting rate could reduce the impact of a delay in planting due to operation of the Diversion; the planting rate is a general indicator of the conditions present (e.g., moisture, temperatures) during spring planting.

Other factors were constant for each simulation, such as land elevation, dry down period, crop prices, crop rotation, and initial crop yields. The period of time that lands would be inundated due to operation of the Diversion did not vary within a flood event, but was a function of flood size and land elevation.

If there are so many factors that could influence the effects, what conclusions did the study produce?

The study found a high likelihood of planting delays resulting from use of the staging area during a flood event, but the length of those delays was generally modest compared to the overall planting period. However, it is difficult to generalize the findings because differences in land elevation produce flooding conditions that vary based on flood size. For example, a producer may have a tract of land that is not inundated in a 25-year flood, but is expected to be inundated in a 50-year or larger flood.

The greatest adverse impact would be on land that is inundated due to operating the Diversion that would otherwise not be inundated by that particular flood event.

Additional Resources:

FM Diversion Project Website

Basic Overall Map of Channel and Staging Area

Overall Map of Channel and Staging Area

Reports Referenced:

Bangsund, D. A., S. Shaik, D. Saxowsky, N. M. Hodur, E. Ndembe.  Expanded Geographic Assessment of the Agricultural Risk of Temporary Water Storage for FM Diversion. North Dakota State University, Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, Agribusiness & Applied Economics Report Number 754, September 2016. < >

Bangsund, D., S. Shaik, D. Saxowsky, N. Hodur.  Initial Assessment of the Agricultural Risk of Temporary Water Storage for FM Diversion.  North Dakota State University, Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, Agribusiness & Applied Economics Report Number 745, October 2015. < >

Ask a researcher archive

Iyobosa Sonia Omoregie and Kendra Erickson-Dockter. Exploring Suicide Rates Among Youth
May 2024

Dean Bangsund and Nancy Hodur. Sugarbeet Industry in the Northern Plains: Economic Contribution in Minnesota and North Dakota.
April 2024

North Dakota Compass. North Dakota Compass Releases the 2024 Compass Points
March 2024

Nicholas Bauroth. City Governance: Commission or Council for Fargo, North Dakota?
February 2024

Ina Cernusca. 2024 Brings a NEW Visualization Tool and Data Updates to the North Dakota State Legislative District Profiles.
January 2024

Samuel Faraday Saidu and Chelsey Hukriede. Strapped for Safety: Exploring Insights into Car Seat Knowledge Among North Dakota Mothers.
December 2023

Debarati Kole and Kendra Erickson-Dockter. A Comprehensive Look at the Multifaceted Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression
October 2023

Valquiria F. Quirino and Avram Slone. COVID-19 pandemic in North Dakota: Significance, progression, and government response.
September 2023

Karen Olson. The Lasting Impact of Maternal Childhood Trauma
August 2023

Avram Slone. The Social Variability of COVID-19 Mortality in North Dakota between March 11th, 2020 and February 13th, 2022
July 2023

Nancy Hodur and Dean Bangsund. Agriculture a Key Driver in the North Dakota economy
June 2023

Karen Olson. Health and Well-Being in North Dakota. Understanding how the five social determinants of health are impacting the ability of North Dakotans to thrive
May 2023

Kendra Erickson-Dockter. North Dakota Compass: 10 years of Measuring Progress and Inspiring Action.
April 2023

Hannah Hanson & Grace Njau. Every Dad Counts: North Dakota Fatherhood Experiences Survey
March 2023

Nancy Hodur. Housing Market Conditions and Declining Homeownership Rates
February 2023

North Dakota Compass. 2022 Recap: Data highlighted throughout the year
January 2023

Kendra Erickson-Dockter. A Look into a Chronic Condition and Pregnancy: Preexisting Diabetes PRAMS Points 2022
December 2022

Nancy Hodur and Karen Olson. Lower-income households and baby boomers, main drivers for North Dakota housing needs in the near term
November 2022

Avram Slone. The Impact of COVID-19 on Group Quarters in North Dakota
October 2022

Chelsey Hukriede. Safe Sleep PRAMS Points 
September 2022

Kendra Erickson-Dockter. Gestational Diabetes PRAMS Points – A NEW Dashboard Format!
August 2022

Aastha Bhandari, Debarati Kole, Dr. Nancy Hodur. Mission Of Mercy: Giving hope through a smile.
July 2022

Ina Cernusca.Households with children have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the first year of the pandemic.
May 2022

Andy Wiese and Karen Olson. One Health System’s Approach to Improving Community Health. Understanding what the 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment Conducted by Sanford Health means for population health
April 2022

Mariel Lopez-Valentin and Grace Njau. North Dakota Title X, Family Planning Needs Assessment
January 2022

Nancy Hodur and Dean Bangsund. North Dakota Lignite Energy Industry Workforce
December 2021

Ina Cernusca. Vaccine Acceptance and Hesitancy in North Dakota
October 2021

Nancy Hodur and Karen Olson. Rural Communities Will Benefit from a New Cooperative in Walsh County
September 2021

Matt Schmidt and Grace Njau. COVID-19 Trends Among North Dakota Children, March 2020 – March 2021
August 2021

Kendra Erickson-Dockter and Ina Cernusca. COVID Hardship on North Dakota Households: New study on the impacts on North Dakota households that lost employment income during the pandemic
July 2021

Chelsey Hukriede and Kendra Erickson-Dockter. NEW! PRAMS Points – A Brief Infographic using North Dakota PRAMS Survey Data
May 2021

North Dakota Compass: A look inside the 2021 Compass Points
April 2021

Ina Cernusca: Households with children are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
March 2021

Ina Cernusca: Differences in COVID-19 Risk Factors at District Level
February 2021

Kendra Erickson-Dockter, Chelsey Hukriede, and Grace Njau: An Introduction to the North Dakota Study of Associated Risks of Stillbirth (SOARS)
October 2020

Karen Ehrens: North Dakota Families are Facing Food and Other Hardships in the Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic, and Helpers Respond
September 2020

Ina Cernusca: Taking the pulse of North Dakota households during the COVID-19 pandemic.
July 2020

Nancy Hodur:Challenges of Grocery Stores in Rural North Dakota
May 2020

North Dakota Compass:2020 Compass Points: Measuring progress. Inspiring action.
March 2020

Amy Tichy:Student Veterans in the College Classroom.
February 2020

North Dakota Compass:North Dakota Compass launches the 2020 State Legislative District Profiles
January 2020

Grace Njau, Nancy Hodur:&Chelsey Hukriede: Risk Behaviors among Women with a Recent Live Birth in North Dakota: Findings from the 2017 North Dakota Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS)
November 2019

Ina Cernusca:& Karen Olson: Behind the scenes – The story of the North Dakota State Legislative District Profiles
October 2019

Ina Cernusca: Key demographic trends in North Dakota.
August 2019

Karen Olson: The 30th edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® Data Book finds that 175,772 children will shape the future of a more diverse North Dakota.
July 2019

Shweta Arpit Srivastava & Dr. Ann Burnett: “Giving rope and pulling it back”: Parental dilemmas to prevent adolescent substance use
June 2019

Ina Cernusca: 2019 Compass Points: Setting direction for improving the quality of life in North Dakota
May 2019

Joshua Marineau and Onnolee Nordstrom: Learning from Fargo -- An Exploration of the Fargo-Moorhead Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
March 2019

Nancy Hodur: Improving Oral Health for Older Adults in North Dakota
November 2018

Rachelle Vettern: Engaging Volunteers across Generations
October 2018

Karen Olson: The 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book reveals strengths and challenges for children in North Dakota – and emphasizes that an inaccurate census in 2020 threatens to worsen existing challenges for North Dakota youth
July 2018

Lori Capouch: Is food access a concern in rural North Dakota?
May 2018

Deb Nelson: Williston Basin 2016: Employment, Population, and Housing Forecasts – An Overview
January 2018

Karen Olson: North Dakota among Top 10 States in Country for Child Well-Being
July 2017

Nancy Hodur: SEAL!North Dakota: A School Dental Sealant Program
June 2017

Grace Njau: A Brief Introduction to the North Dakota Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS)
April 2017

Ina Cernusca: North Dakota’s Women study: A brief overview
March 2017

Dean Bangsund: Effects of Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion on Spring Planting for Producers
February 2017

Deb Nelson: Vision West: Leading, Educating, and Collaborating to Mobilize the 19 Western North Dakota Counties Towards Resilience and Prosperity
December 2016

Nancy Hodur: North Dakota Statewide Housing Needs Assessment: A Brief Overview of the Population and Housing Forecast component
November 2016

Social Isolation: Experiential Narratives of African Refugee Women in the Fargo-Moorhead Community
September 2016

Sean Brotherson: Father Involvement and the Future of Children and Families
July 2016

Carol Cwiak: Bakken Oil: What Have We Learned and What Will We Do Differently Next Time
June 2016

Jessica Creuzer: The Changing Face of Western North Dakota: What are the Effects of Increased Travel from Energy Development
April 2016

ND Compass: City Profiles
February 2016

ND Department of Health: Making Change Happen
January 2016

Jennifer Weber: A Bold New Direction for the North Dakota University System - The NDUS Edge Dashboards
December 2015

Wendy Troop-Gordon: What Has Science Taught Us About Bullying?
November 2015

ND Compass: A Look at the Youngest North Dakotans
October 2015

Kendra Erickson-Dockter: Growing Older in North Dakota
September 2015

Michael Ziesch: Data You Can Trust: The Labor Market Information Center
August 2015

Malini Srivastava and Troy Raisanen: efargo: City Scale Sustainability
July 2015

Kevin Iverson: The State Repository of Census Information- The North Dakota Census
June 2015

Wonwoo Byun: Reducing Sedentary Behavior is a Key for Obesity Prevention in Children
May 2015

Kathryn Gordon: The Science of Suicide Prevention
April 2015

ND Compass: Tell a Story with Data! The Importance of Crade-to-Career Success
March 2015

Abby Gold: Community Food Systems: Food Charters and More
February 2015

Heather Fuller-Iglesias: The Importance of Recognizing the Role of Social Support in Human Development Across the Lifespan
January 2015

Michael Carbone: Using Data to End Homelessness
December 2014

Randal Coon: Tribal Colleges Contribute to the State's Economy
November 2014

Deb White: Women's Representation in Elected Office
October 2014

Randal Coon: Pull Factors Measure Retail Trade Performance
September 2014

Karen Olson: North Dakota ranks Well Nationally with Regard to Overall Child Well-Being; However, Substantial Opportunities for Improvement Exist
August 2014

Julie Garden-Robinson: Guard Against Grilling Gaffes: Healthy Grilling and Food Safety Tips
July 2014

Michael Noone: Extreme Weather Patterns- North Dakota Has It All
June 2014

Kathleen Tweeten: Why All Community Development Decisions Should Use the Community Capitals Framework
May 2014

Clayton Hilmert: Stress effects on pregnancy: The impact of the 2009 Red River flood on birth weight
April 2014

Karen Ehrens: Food Deserts and how they impact North Dakota
March 2014

Gretchen Dobervich and Kendra Erickson-Dockter: New Geographic Profiles: How they can work for you
February 2014

Compass Staff: "New Compass Team Brings Changes in 2014"
January 2014

Donna Grandbois: "Fargo-Moorhead American Indian Community-Sponsored Health Needs Assessment"
November 2013

Karen Olson: "North Dakota KIDS COUNT - why it counts for you
October 2013

Nancy Hodur: "Western North Dakota School Administrators Face Challenges"
August 2013

Megan Chmielewski: "Annual population estimates tell interesting stories about North Dakota's growth patterns"
July 2013

Ramona Danielson: "Learn how to make the ND Compass website work for you"
May 2013

Karen Olson: "About the American Community Survey (ACS)"
February 2013

North Dakota Compass

Center for Social Research
North Dakota State University

Compass created by:
Wilder Research

© 2024. All rights reserved.