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FLOODWALL PROTECTION Heitkamp seeks FEMA lot solution in VC

Photos by Chris Olson / The Sun David Schelkoph, left, Valley City city administrator, talks with U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., as they stand next to a section of the floodwall that was built in 2016. The city built this section of wall on a property that had been purchased by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of a hazard protection mitigation program. This section of wall may need to be torn down and property around it purchased so that the wall goes behind the FEMA property.1 / 2
A section of the flood protection wall in Valley City may need to be removed and the wall rerouted behind a property the Federal Emergency Management Agency purchased as part of a hazard mitigation plan the federal government agency came up to avoid the problems with future flooding in the city.2 / 2

Valley City, N.D. -

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has introduced language that allows the city of Valley City to keep a section of its floodwall in place that runs through land that should not have been included in the floodwall project.

Heitkamp said she and her staff worked with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to come up with language that will allow Valley City to keep a 140-foot-long section of the wall that runs through land purchased through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. FEMA will be compensated for the land. She said she is working at getting the language added to an appropriation bill that is part of legislation that must pass Congress by March 23. She said U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., is working to get the legislation passed as well.

" I think FEMA would say this was inadvertent.



If Heitkamp’s proposed legislation is not included and can’t be added to another bill in the future, the city will have to remove the section of floodwall and relocate the wall to the east behind the FEMA property. Doing so would cost between $2.5 million to $3.5 million, according to information provided by Valley City officials.

Heitkamp met Saturday with members of the Valley City Commission and Valley City officials on the issue. David Schelkoph, Valley City city administrator, said in 1993 FEMA purchased lots in the city as part of a program to improve the city’s flood protection efforts. He said houses on these lots were moved.

After the city experienced its worst flooding in 2009 and 2011, Schelkoph said the city went to work to put in place permanent flood protection. In 2016 and 2017, the floodwall was built first in the district around Valley City State University and in other areas along the Sheyenne River.

Last year Dave Andersen, the city’s building inspector, asked for a list of FEMA properties in the city from the North Dakota Department of Emergency Management. He reviewed the state’s list with the list of FEMA properties the city had, and the two lists didn’t match.

Schelkoph said the state list was the same as what FEMA had. As part of the floodwall project, any FEMA properties that were purchased under its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program were not included in the floodwall project.

Schelkoph said most FEMA properties in the city were excluded from the project. One lot, which was not identified as having a deed restriction place upon it by FEMA, was included in the project and is the FEMA property at the center of the issue. The property is located on Viking Drive between 4th and 5th Avenues Southwest, about a block west of the entrance to Valley City State University.

Schelkoph said the city notified FEMA of the mistake as soon as it was known.

“We want to be honest with FEMA because without FEMA Valley City wouldn’t be here,” he said.

Heitkamp said the legislation will be very specific to this situation and won’t be able to be used by other communities to change other projects. She said FEMA officials were worried the proposed legislation would allow other communities to reopen already completed FEMA projects.

Heitkamp said the mistake with the FEMA property deed was not intentional.

“I think FEMA would say this was inadvertent,” she said, “It was just something that wasn’t caught at the time.”

Heitkamp said while she can’t guarantee anything getting passed in Congress, she did feel pretty good about this legislation fixing the situation.

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Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

(701) 952-8454