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Flood protection makes progress

Jill Schramm/MDN Sen. John Hoeven, right, assesses the area of the proposed Maple Diversion on a tour Wednesday led by Souris River Joint Board administrator Ryan Ackerman, left. The project starts near the Broadway Bridge, shown in the background, and heads east toward the area of the former Lincoln school.

Funding and authorizations are in place to build flood protection for a large share of Minot residents in the valley within the next five years.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-ND, and Col. Karl Jansen with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, met with Minot city officials and members of the Souris River Joint Board Wednesday to celebrate the progress of Milestone One in the $1.2 billion Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project.

Hoeven recently worked with the Corps and Office of Management and Budget to secure $61.5 million for the Maple Diversion project. Construction is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2023, following completion of design work, and take four years to complete.

A complicated project, the Maple Diversion will include laying temporary rail to enable BNSF Railway to operate while work disrupts the existing tracks. By creating a diversion, the project eliminates the need for buyouts that otherwise would impact about 200 homes.

The diversion gates would open to allow water in when the river level reaches 3,000 cfs, or about a 10-year flood event. Minot currently has flood protection to 5,000 cfs. A typical year sees a peak of 800 to 1,000 cfs come through the Souris River.

Hoeven noted the federal dollars for the Maple Diversion free up other state and local money to move forward with MI-5, which runs from about Third Street to 13th Street Northeast, where the project ties into high ground to complete Milestone One. At that point, the project would protect 60% of valley residents in Minot.

The three years of construction on flood wall, a pump station and other features in Phase MI-5 would occur simultaneously with the Maple Diversion construction.

“The good news is we are underway so that for homeowners and business owners, not only are their properties protected, but they know that they’re not going to have to buy flood insurance once this is built,” Hoeven said.

The Maple Diversion funding is part of more than $750 million in federal grants, loans and direct assistance since 2011 to help the region recover from the flood.

The Maple Diversion funding is significant, said David Ashley, chairman of the SRJB.

“What that means to us is not only are we going to basically button up the north side of Minot – get them under control and give them the flood control that is needed – but it will give us an opportunity to start looking forward and have funds available for the basinwide approach. We’ve gotten a lot of things completed, but we’re still working on some things. We have to look at the whole basin. We can now do that,” he said.

Hoeven said the $61.5 million took considerable effort to secure for Souris River flood protection, given the competition for the money approved by Congress in an infrastructure bill.

“This funding, actually, we got sooner than we expected,” Hoeven said. “We thought we were going to have to jump through a lot of other hurdles.”

Jansen credited the Minot area’s commitment for its ability to obtain the resources so quickly.

“Part of that is, I think, the trust that the senior leadership in the Army and in the administration has in this community, because of the work you’ve done so far and just rolling up your sleeves and having a lot of skin in the game,” he said.

Mayor Shaun Sipma said the full project remains 20 years away from completion unless the state approves funding to speed the pace. The SRJB will need $17 million from the state to add to the federal and local dollars to complete the Maple Diversion, but past state support indicates that won’t be an issue. Sipma said the big request in the 2023 legislation session will be for dollars to put the project on an accelerated schedule toward completion in 10 to 12 years. Acceleration would save about $130 million in inflationary construction costs and about $79 million in flood insurance costs to homeowners.

Currently in design, Milestone Two extends the project in the area of Roosevelt Park and Zoo and Eastwood Park. Milestone Three includes the Green Valley neighborhood and state fairgrounds and will require acquisition of homes and two mobile home parks.

Minot Mayor Shaun Sipma said the buyouts will create finality for homeowners in the far reaches of the project who have been waiting a decade.

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