Council supports full-scale flood plan

A proposed flood protection plan for the city of Minot won’t be scaled back.

The Minot City Council elected Monday to forge ahead with a plan of levees, flood walls and diversions to protect the city to 27,400 cubic feet per second of river flow. The decision came after reviewing a report from the project engineers that indicated the savings in scaling back would be 6 percent or less.

Engineers analyzed how costs would change with a project of 10,000 cfs, 15,000 cfs or 20,000 cfs. The most savings came from a 10,000 cfs plan that scaled down the height and width of the levee.

The city desired to preserve the footprint of a 27,400 cfs system, though. The cost savings in scaling back then becomes minimal because land acquisitions and structure foundations would not be reduced. The result was a $30.7 million savings on a $543 million project.

The council, with two members absent, voted 12-0 to stick with the 27,400 cfs plan.

Council member Blake Krabseth said the decision doesn’t mean that river management, changes at Lake Darling Dam or other methods of flood control won’t be considered.

“It’s important that our citizens understand that we are working on all avenues. It seems like the system through the city gets the most attention,” he said.

The council also voted to allow temporary housing units to remain on the private lots of displaced flood survivors until October, after which time homeowners will need to remove the units or apply for city permits to stay. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will end its housing mission June 24, removing units unless homeowners decide to purchase and keep them beyond that date.

Special permits that take effect Oct. 1 will have deadlines for unit removal that will vary on a case by case basis. Residents also will have to take out a $10,000 bond to get a permit. The city is requiring the bond to cover the city’s cost of removal should homeowners fail to comply with a deadline.

The council had the option, although it did not take it, to assess removal costs to the property rather than require a bond. A bond could cost $200 depending on the applicant’s credit and collateral, according to research by the city engineer’s office.

The council heard from a rural Minot resident who alerted the council that its action will affect people living in temporary units in the city’s two-mile zoning jurisdiction, including some people who will not be ready to move out by October.

Council member Bob Miller argued for shifting the October deadline to Jan. 1, 2014, giving people a longer construction season. An artificial deadline will only compound the difficulty for flood survivors and create more extension applications for city staff to process, he said. He cast the only dissenting vote in an 11-1 decision for the October deadline.

Council member Dave Lehner said the intent is to encourage progress and keep the units from becoming long-term fixtures. He mentioned an additional concern with the arctic vestibules, often left on private properties after FEMA removes units no longer needed.

FEMA has been leaving the vestibules if homeowners request to keep them. Otherwise, FEMA donates the vestibules to Hope Village so materials can be reused in the volunteer rebuilding efforts.

In other business, the council voted to:

adopt a $2 a month charge on water bills of homeowners with radio-read water meter units as a means of paying for the cost and maintenance of the units.

approve a payment-in-lieu-of tax for Beyond Shelter to enable the Fargo organization to build the second phase of Washington Townhomes as affordable housing. The organization will pay a set amount each year in lieu of paying property tax on the building. The first year payment of $11,200 increases by 2 percent a year over the 20-year life of the tax incentive.