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Stormwater master plan makes long-term plans for development

This map shows southwest Jamestown. The blue lines indicate drainage ditches. The area between the two blue lines on the map to the right of the Buffalo Mall and parallel to U.S. Highway 281 is where improvements to underground drainage pipes estimated at $4.6 million are planned.

The stormwater master plan accepted last week by the city of Jamestown and Stutsman County Water Resource Board includes a lot of drainage improvement projects, but no work is likely to occur soon, according to Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen.

The master plan was prepared by AE2S, an engineering company, under a contract with the Stutsman County Water Resource Board. The master plan cost couldn’t exceed $350,000 and will likely reach close to that amount when all costs are tallied, according to Jeff Fuchs, Jamestown city administrator.

“Nothing identified is in the near future,” Andersen said, speaking of projects included in the plan. “The development-driven projects will occur at the pace of development and be paid for by the developers. The major costs within the existing system will wait until the right funding opportunity.”

Development-driven projects vary but include some regional retention basins that would hold stormwater during heavy rain or spring snowmelt and release the water slowly into drainage systems. Two such ponds are planned for the area between Menards and Jamestown Regional Medical Center. Those ponds have an engineer’s estimate of about $2.5 million.

The stormwater master plan includes retention ponds and drainage improvements in other locations in and around Jamestown where development could occur.

Projects of that type would likely be paid for by special assessments on properties that benefit from the improved drainage, Andersen said.

Updates to the existing stormwater infrastructure with the biggest price tag are in the area of the Buffalo Mall and carry water from a large area in the southwest under U.S. Highway 281 and Interstate 94 before draining into the James River.

That project has an engineer’s estimate of about $4.8 million with an additional $640,000 for larger culverts in the rural area.

Plans in the Buffalo Mall area include increasing the capacity of the drain pipes running under the parking lots, streets and roads by enlarging some of the existing pipe from 42 inches to 84 inches and replacing current 8 foot round culverts with 8 foot square culverts. Much of this work would be done under parking lots, streets and roads in the area of Highway 281 south of the intersection with Interstate 94.

“Before, we could identify the problems but didn’t have enough info to develop a solution,” Andersen said. “The major costs within the existing system will wait until the right funding opportunity comes along.”

Andersen said the application process for funds from the North Dakota State Water Commission or the North Dakota Department of Transportation would take at least two years. Another funding source would be bonds issued by the city and repaid through tax revenue or special assessments.

The city is also developing a stormwater utility fee in conjunction with the master plan, Andersen said. A stormwater utility would place a monthly fee on all Jamestown properties for stormwater infrastructure maintenance. Stormwater utility maintenance costs are now paid by the city’s street department which is funded by property tax.

The stormwater utility fee would be added to the monthly utility charges paid by local property owners. This would give the city a funding source for maintenance and minor repairs, but major upgrades to the stormwater system would still likely be paid for through bonding and special assessments, Andersen has said previously.

Dave Hillerud, chairman of the Jamestown Planning Commission, said even if projects aren’t started immediately, the master plan is important.

“It is a planning tool,” he said. “It gives them (City Council) a direction of where to go next.”

Hillerud said the plan can be used as a financial planning tool to forecast the costs of additional development. He gave the existing drainage system near Highway 281 as an example.

“That system is in need of upsizing,” he said. “How much development has to occur before we do something. This plan helps define that.”

Andersen said one of the first steps the City Council could take is to adopt the plan into the standards and guidelines the city maintains that defines how city infrastructure is built and maintained.

The City Council could also update its existing stormwater ordinance to reflect the new data presented in the plan. This would provide any potential developers with guidelines on how the city plans to handle stormwater issues in the future.

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