Flood protection

State aid will be critical to construct a flood control project for the Souris River Basin, especially if federal dollars aren’t forthcoming, according to testimony before the North Dakota Legislature’s Water Topics Overview Committee in Minot Thursday.

The State Water Commission, working with the Souris River Joint Board, developed an $820 million flood protection plan for the valley from Burlington to Velva and Mouse River Park. The plan includes $543 million in improvements in Minot.

The state has been providing a 60 percent match for water projects, but that won’t be adequate if there aren’t federal funds, Minot public works director Dan Jonasson told the committee.

“If we have to go to a 60/40 split and keep this as a local project, we can’t afford to build it. We would like to see something closer to a 75/25 split,” he said.

The City of Minot will begin on July 1 to direct a half cent of its first sales tax to flood control as its local match. The tax is estimated to generate $6 million to $7 million a year.

The State Water Commission funded and completed a reconnaissance study to determine whether there is a federal interest that would warrant federal cost sharing. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which typically would conduct the study, did not have funding available. The state completed the $50,000 study and submitted it to the Corps with a finding that there is a federal interest, Jonasson said.

The Corps has not taken action, although the joint board and City of Minot have been pushing to have the Corps at least move to get the flood control project into consideration for future federal funding, even if that funding is well down the road.

Whatever source of funding is found, Jonasson said, construction of just Minot’s portion of a flood control project will take nearly 12 years. The city and joint board are supporting a project to protect Minot to 27,400 cubic feet per second of water coming down the Souris River, which is the flood of record in 2011.

Ranchers in the Towner area who depend on water receding after spring flooding so they can harvest their hay meadows aired their concerns to the legislative committee about the river management and the potential effect of the proposed flood control.

Chris Nelson, Towner, said ranchers lost almost all their production from 2011 to 2013 because of late-season flooding.

“The water stayed on too long,” he said. “We need to get these flows down to 100 cfs in mid- to late May and keep those flows down.”

The number of ranchers affected is few compared to Minot residents, but they can’t be ignored, he said.

“We are a pretty small voice. We feel a little defeated with the city going to spend $800 million to try to get this water through,” he said. “We deserve to be considered, and it just seems like, in the future, we really need to be considered as a neighbor.”

Leland Goodman, Willow City, said ranchers who granted easements for rare flooding when Minot built its flood project in the 1980s permanently lost the use of their land.

“If you are going to use that area as a holding pond, they should be compensated for that,” he said. “All this area that’s being used for flood control should be compensated for their losses. It needs to be addressed. It needs to be part of the flood plan.”

Lynn Kongslie of Towner said there needs to be better management of water from the dams.

“Something has to be done,” he said. “27,400 (cfs) coming down on us when Minot gets done with their channel I don’t think we can handle that.”

Jonasson informed the committee about work that Minot has started related to flood control.

The city expects to select an engineer by April 15 to begin design work on Fourth Avenue Northeast flood walls, from North Broadway eastward to 14th Street, and the Napa Valley/Forest Road levee and flood-wall system running from the U.S. Highway 83 bypass to 16th Street Southwest and along Forest Road to the Canadian Pacific Railway on the north side of the river. The Napa/Forest Road portion will include road raises, levee construction, channel improvements and utility and infrastructure modifications.

The cost of the Fourth Avenue work is $26.4 million; Forest Road, $8.3 million; and Napa Valley, $18.3 million.

Jonasson said the city estimates it will take 18 months to two years to complete the design work and obtain the various permits. Construction could start in 2016.

The city also is using mitigation money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to do design work on flood protection at the Minot Water Treatment Plant. Construction is expected in 2015 and 2016.

Jonasson reported that the city acquired 84 homes in an $11 million voluntary buyout round that included offers to 124 homeowners. These are homes in the flood protection plan footprint and other homes near the river whose location makes flood fighting more difficult.

A second phase of buyouts has begun, with $24.4 million available to acquire 113 homes. Jonasson said about 90 percent of homeowners have shown some interest in selling.

The city has repaired numerous flood damages to infrastructure since 2011. Still remaining is a project to address roads and utility trench settlement.

“This fall and next spring, we will be looking at doing over $9 million of overlays and repairs in the flood area,” Jonasson said.

The city has developed a plan for $6 million in levee repairs in response to a Corps survey that found the system to be in need of attention. Jonasson said the city will need to remove trees, including some trees that were there when the levees were built, and apply riprap in areas of erosion.