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GF flood protection will need future maintenance

GRAND FORKS — While the city regularly maintains its flood protection system, eventually the need for more significant fixes will arise.

The English Coulee Diversion Channel is already starting to erode, and Assistant City Engineer Mark Walker said the city expects in the coming years to do several preventive maintenance projects.

“We’ve got pumps and gates and all these things that are eventually going to need upgrades,” Walker said. Other examples are pond cleaning or replacing riprap, which is rock on the sides of the channels.

The city is not in any danger now of the flood protection failing, Walker said, but these maintenance projects are to ensure safety over time.

The city’s 2015 budget should include some potential projects, Walker said. He wouldn’t take a guess at how much the projects could cost, saying more analysis is needed for any sort of estimate.

But the projects will likely be in excess of $30,000, which means they’ll require City Council approval when the time comes, he said.

At last week’s Service/Safety Committee meeting, City Council members voiced interest in making sure the flood protection is maintained, even if it ends up costing a significant amount.

“We can’t afford to lose it,” said council member Ken Vein, referring to the flood protection.

The topic came up after the city learned it will receive a roughly $1.16 million refund from the Army Corps of Engineers, which partly funded and oversaw building the city’s flood protection system. That refund is marked for these maintenance projects.

Residents can probably already see some erosion on the coulee, which has eroded quicker because it has more box culverts, causing water’s velocity to increase as it moves through the channel, Walker said.

When the flood protection system was being built in the 2000s, city officials had asked the corps about how much major maintenance would be needed, Walker said. For example, fully redoing the riprap on the coulee would be several million dollars, he said.

But the corps recommended not planning any large-scale revamp of the flood protection and instead doing the smaller, preventive maintenance projects, Walker said.

“What we’re really doing is basically preventative maintenance,” he said. “I’m not concerned at all that the integrity of the project is at risk.”

Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
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