Local officials have said it, federal officials have said it, local, state and national politicians have said it and we've said it numerous times. But we're glad that engineers are also presenting at public forums in no-nonsense terms that the process of constructing a flood protection system for Minot and other cities along the Souris River is going to take a long time.
At a meeting with Minot aldermen Wednesday, engineers discussed a timeline that would have flood protection in place in 11 to 12 years. The planning stage alone is expected to take as long as five years, with construction taking another six years. Any timeline, of course, depends upon finding adequate funding for the project, which carries a preliminary price tag of $820 million.
That price could be reduced, if the city eliminates or changes features of the plan, or reduces the overall scope of the project that is currently designed to protect the city to a level of 27,400 cubic feet per second. City council president Dean Frantsvog said Wednesday "We have to get that to a number we can afford to pay" when discussing the project's $820 million cost. But determining what that number is will be difficult, because what is affordable likely depends on who you ask.
If the city determines, for instance, that it can afford a price tag of $600 million, what would need to be cut from the plan to get down to that number? Or to get down to $500 million? Until the city knows for sure how much federal and state aid it will receive, it's almost impossible to know what's affordable.
And money isn't the only issue up for discussion. As features are removed, the degree of risk the city is willing to take will rise. Again, how much risk the city can afford to take depends on who you ask. A resident of North Hill and a resident living near Lincoln?Elementary almost surely would have different opinions on acceptable levels of flood risk.
Changes in river management would also have significant impact on the project's scope and cost, but any changes won't happen overnight, either.
It all adds up to a long, drawn-out process, and not all Minot residents can afford to wait 11 or 12 years to restore their lives to normal. But wait they must.