Drainage project could help with reclaiming much of 6,000 acres of flooded land in Stutsman CountySix thousand acres of flooded land in northern Stutsman County, as well as Foster and Griggs counties, could be affected by a drainage project still in its preliminary stages.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Six thousand acres of flooded land in northern Stutsman County, as well as Foster and Griggs counties, could be affected by a drainage project still in its preliminary stages.
“It’s just in the planning stages. (We’re) just trying to get organized to see if it’s even feasible to do it,” said Joel Lees, chairman of the Stutsman County Water Resource Board. “There’s quite a few acres up there under water.”
The water is located in a closed basin with no drainage, drowning out otherwise-viable farmland as well as township roads that would cost more than the cost of the drainage project to raise.
The drainage system would be gated and controlled, so it could be turned off if flooding downstream became an issue, and it would be so gradual it would take three to four years to get the water levels down, said Stutsman County Commissioner Dave Schwartz.
Much of the project would lie between Kensal and Courtenay, in Nogosek Township. Costs would be assessed back to landowners, possibly at the rate of about $6.75 per acre at most.
For the project to begin, landowners in special assessment district formed for that purpose would have to vote for it. An earlier attempt to install the drainage system failed at the polls in 1999, Lees said.
At that point, the project would have cost about $1.38 million.
Now the same project would cost about $4.55 million, with the brunt of the increased costs coming from the cost of wildlife mitigation acres, Schwartz said.
In 1999, that mitigation land was $200 per acre. Now, it’s about $5,000 per acre, or about $2 million, “which basically kills the project,” Schwartz said.
Even if it were less expensive, finding 400 acres of eligible land would still be difficult, he added.
It may be possible to change the project to drain only to 2008 levels, which could decrease the number of mitigation acres required, Schwartz said.
Another possible obstacle to the plan is Measure 2, which if passed would call into question whether special assessments could be made, and without them, there would be no means to pay for the project.
Currently, Moore Engineering out of Fargo is working on a feasibility report determining whether mitigation acres would be required if the water levels were only brought down to the 2008 levels.
The study will also examine the possibility of draining the water west to the James River, rather than east to the Sheyenne River. Because the water is in the Sheyenne River’s watershed, it would require permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move it to the James.
So far, Stutsman County has paid $13,000 for engineering studies, and the Stutsman County Commission tabled a request for an additional $10,000 Tuesday, hoping to find out if Griggs and Foster counties would contribute some funding to the project.
Should it go forward, the counties’ funds would be reimbursed via the special assessments.
Officials will have to formally organize a joint board that would include representatives from Stutsman, Foster and Griggs counties for the drainage project to proceed.
“The biggest thing is that it’s just being looked at right now. We’re a long, long ways from getting anything done,” Lees said. “Maybe a year from now we’ll get something done.”
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org