Forging Ahead

More money is needed for construction on a flood protection project, but that won’t hold up permitting and bidding later this year, Ryan Ackerman with the Souris River Joint Board said Tuesday. Design of the first three phases of work in Minot should be completed by July.

Speaking to the Ward County Commission, Ackerman said about $100 million is available for flood protection activities, including about $68 million from the state.

“There’s a current shortfall of funds, but we have been working very hard with our legislators to try to get support for the project going into the next legislative session,” said Ackerman, project manager for the joint board.

The existing funds include $7.2 million from the state and $4.8 million from the City of Minot’s sales tax for the rural StARR program. The program provides acquisition, relocation or ring dikes for rural residences at risk of river flooding. The program’s implementation will begin in a few weeks in Renville, Ward and McHenry counties.

Not included in the funding is a separate $200,000 in federal funds to begin work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a flood protection study in the river basin. The president’s budget includes another $500,000 in 2017 to continue the study, estimated to cost about $3 million. The federal government is expected to contribute $1.5 million, with the state and Minot to provide the remainder.

The Corps study will look at river management as well as flood protection structures.

Ackerman said the International Joint Commission will be studying river management as well. He said the commission had been waiting to hear from the Canadian government about participation. Both the United States and Canada now have agreed to contribute $1 million each to the study.

Ackerman said construction on local flood protection structures will proceed rather than wait three years for the Corps study and possibly as long for the IJC study. The studies and the construction will eventually converge into a single plan, he said.

“Time is of the essence,” he said. “We need to keep moving.”

An Environmental Impact Statement for work from Burlington through Minot also is underway. Environmental studies for other communities and project areas will be conducted in the future.

The Souris River Joint Board continues to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding improvements at the J. Clark Salyer Refuge complex, including establishing additional conveyance at the upstream end of the refuge and within the refuge at the Nelson Bridge.

In addition, the board is required to update its emergency action plan for responding to any future flood in the valley..