Minot gets glimpse of new dike plansMinot residents wondering how much effort they should put into repairing their flooded homes learned Thursday who among them would likely be bought out at the start of a new dike project.
By: By Tu-Uyen Tran, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
Minot residents wondering how much effort they should put into repairing their flooded homes learned Thursday who among them would likely be bought out at the start of a new dike project.
“It is what everyone kind of expected,” said Jim Johnson, who lived just 20 yards from the river on the city’s east side. The whole neighborhood was devastated, he said. “Everybody in the neighborhood had a deck but it was somebody else’s deck.”
The home of 15 years he shared with his wife Kathleen would be on the wet side of the dikes, according to a preliminary flood control plan the state released Thursday. The plan includes property owners up and down the Souris, also known as the Mouse River, from Mouse River Park to the north near Tolley to Velva just east of Minot.
In June and July, Minot, the state’s fourth largest city, and nearby communities were hit by the biggest flood they’d ever seen. In Minot alone, floodwaters damaged 4,100 properties.
Johnson got six feet of water on his first floor, which is now pretty much a maze of 2-by-4 studs. He’d spent $30,000 to clean and gut the home and was waiting to find out if he’d have to spend much more or if the home would be bought out and potentially demolished anyway.
Now, he and the owners of about 1,000 properties — about 660 are single-family homes and the rest apartments and commercial buildings — will wait and see how the plan evolves as the state and local governments figure out how to pay for it.
State Engineer Todd Sando, a member of the State Water Commission, said he expects the plan to change “significantly” depending on public input and on funding.
He said a preliminary cost estimate won’t be available until around Thanksgiving or as late as December.
That the preliminary plan came out Thursday and not months later as city officials had thought this summer is because local and state leaders wanted homeowners to know as soon as possible how it will affect them.
For this reason, the plan lacks a lot of details that might be expected such as a cost estimate and impacts to communities further upstream and downstream. Those details will come later. The key information at this point is approximately where dikes will be built and which areas would be bought out.
“The flood this year was so immense that there’s a lot of caution from citizens and from officials,” said David Waind, Minot’s city administrator. The city is thankful for the state’s speedy effort, he said.
“The goal is to try to have assurance to our citizens they’re going to be protected from the flood of record, and this year was the flood of record,” he said.
For Johnson, there is some sense of assurance.
“I don’t know if I can go through all that work again to put it back in shape,” he said of his old home, which insurance adjusters suggested needed $240,000 of work. He’s bought a new home already so his wife, who’s undergoing treatment for cancer, could enjoy a feeling of stability, he said.
But the question is how the city will determine the value of the home, he said. He’s heard rumors that range from 6 percent of the home’s taxable value all the way to the full taxable value, minus flood insurance payments, if any, he said.
His neighbor across the street probably doesn’t feel as much assurance because, he said, he appears to be on the edge of the buyout zone and whether the neighbor gets bought out may depend, he thinks, on how much money is available.
Since the mid-1990s, Minot residents had been protected by upstream dams, one in North Dakota and three in Canada, from a 100-year flood. Massive rainfall in Saskatchewan this summer appears to have overwhelmed the system.
The state plan, with its approximately 20 miles of floodwalls and earthen levees, would protect Souris valley residents from a future flood equal to this year’s flood.
Sando said it’s about as big as Grand Forks’ dike system, and would probably take about as long to be completed.
Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are protected by 32 miles of dikes and 11 miles of diversion channels. The system was finished in 2007, a decade after the flood and that was considered pretty expeditious by city officials. A big factor in how quickly it was completed was the availability of federal funding.
The difference Grand Forks’ system was led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and built when the national economy was healthier and federal government was in better fiscal shape. The national picture is a lot different now. Minot’s system is state-led.
Patrick Moes, a spokesman for the corps, said the corps’ experts are involved, advising the state and ensuring any final design will meet federal standards.
The corps is responsible for certifying flood protection projects. The areas they protect can then be taken out of the floodplain by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for insurance purposes.
Sando said the state Legislature’s special session next week will shed more light on how the state might fund Minot’s dikes.
At the city level, officials are prepared for a long-term project having spoken to their counterparts in Grand Forks, Waind said. They’re also prepared to pay their share, too, he said. “There’s going to be a local share of this project. I’m certain we’re going to be impacted to a large extent. How that local share will be paid is uncertain.”
He said city officials think sales taxes will be key rather than property taxes, as is the case in Grand Forks.
Tu-Uyen Tran is a reporter
at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.