Members of the Minot City Council face a difficult decision soon that will have a major impact on the city's future flood recovery efforts. At a special meeting Dec. 18, the council will discuss an "advisory base flood elevation."
The current flood plain, despite 2011's catastrophic event, remains the Souris River channel. The city would like the Federal Emergency Management Agency to adopt an "advisory base flood elevation" of 9,600 cubic feet per second, which would also create a new flood plain. The current dike system protects the city to a level of 5,000 cfs. A new flood plain would mean the city would have access to hazard mitigation money, which could be used to buy homes in the valley.
But a new flood elevation would bring with it new requirements and restrictions. For instance, nothing could be built on lots purchased with hazard mitigation money, including flood control structures. And strict building rules would also be imposed, including requirements that the lowest floor opening be at least a foot above the new flood elevation on any construction in the valley. That means a home's lowest floor would have to be seven or eight feet off the ground.
But homes already under construction in the flood zone wouldn't be required to meet those same standards. Imagine a city block in northwest Minot that looks like this: A few reconstructed homes, some lots that would remain empty forever, and a couple of very tall new homes with all the living space at least seven feet off the ground.
Not exactly a sight we'd like to see.
We fully understand the council's decision won't be a simple one. Federal funding is hard to come by, but accepting the accompanying restrictions and requirements would not be good for the city of Minot, and would certainly hinder future flood recovery efforts. Hopefully, the city can find alternate forms of federal funding when it decides not to request the advisory base flood elevation.