County plans permanent high-water repairsTwelve sites in Stutsman County where roads were raised to compensate for high water in 2009 and 2010 will be permanently fixed in an $18 million series of projects starting in 2012.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Twelve sites in Stutsman County where roads were raised to compensate for high water in 2009 and 2010 will be permanently fixed in an $18 million series of projects starting in 2012.
Ten of the 12 roads are paved, and seven sites are located on Stutsman County Road 67.
“It’s a closed-basin area. There’s nowhere for the water to go,” said Stutsman County Commissioner Dave Schwartz. “It’s never flooded before —well yes, it has, but not like this.”
In some cases, the water overtopped the road by five feet.
At that point, there’s not really a road there anymore, and builders have to start all over again, said Stutsman County Highway Superintendent Mickey Nenow.
So far, the projects are in the preliminary engineering stage. Construction should begin in 2012.
Some of the sites need more work than others, but all of them already had Emergency Road repairs done, and were completely funded with federal dollars. But to get those dollars, the county had to agree to follow up the temporary repairs with permanent ones. Federal funding pays for 80 percent of those repairs, and the county must pick up the tab for the remaining 20 percent.
The permanent repairs must also follow regulations and specifications, and therefore they are far more costly than the temporary fixes designed only to make the road somewhat usable as quickly as possible.
Permanent repairs to the roads must meet federal highway standards, follow environmental regulations, offset damage done to wetlands and obey right of way restrictions. The ditches have to follow slope and width requirements, which can be significant when the road is raised three to seven feet.
All those requirements mean that paying for 20 percent of the permanent repairs can be more expensive than paying for the whole project and not bringing the road up to federal specifications, Schwartz said.
For the 12 projects, the cost to the county works out to be approximately $2.7 million.
To pay for the repairs, Stutsman County will apply for a Capital Financing Program Disaster Loan, offered by North Dakota’s Public Financing Authority.
The disaster loans are meant to provide counties and other political subdivisions affected by weather-related events with funds quickly. Stutsman County would then be able to pay its loan back with tax money.
The county’s loan application was for the full $2.7 million, but it will not have to actually take the full $2.7 million. Instead, the terms of the Disaster Loan allow a government to borrow a minimum of $50,000 or 5 percent of the loan total, whichever is less — in Stutsman County’s case, $50,000. If the county did not require the other funds, they would never be borrowed and the interest never paid.
The funds are needed partly because Stutsman County’s emergency fund is $2.8 million in the red, explained County Auditor/Chief Operating Officer Casey Bradley. The bulk of that money will be repaid to the county by the federal government eventually, but at this point, they have no money either.
Townships, also hit hard by multiple years of high water, may also apply for Capital Financing Program Disaster Loans. On Friday, Bradley had already received two completed applications for funding from Stutsman County townships, and he expected to get more on Monday.
Some urgency is required. Any county or township applications for the Disaster Loans must be complete and the first portion of the loan withdrawn by Dec. 31, thanks to Measure 2, which seeks to abolish property taxes in North Dakota.
If Measure 2 passes next year, counties and townships would have no clear way to pay back loans — leaving other entities unwilling to lend money to them after Jan. 1 because the property tax ban would be effective retroactively to Jan. 1, even though the election for the measure will be in June.
County officials hope to begin the permanent fixes in 2012, if the locations are not affected by new spring floods — already a distinct possibility. The repairs to Stutsman County Road 67 are in an area that functions as a sort of bowl, catching and holding water rather than allowing it to drain away.
“The water’s all still there. It’s not going to drain out in our lifetime,” Schwartz said. “Overall, there’s just no place for the water to go.”
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at