Cost savings a welcome boon to flood protection

Cost savings in any project funded by government entities is a rare thing. Cost over-runs are far more frequent. Accurate projections and projects that come in at their expected cost are rare enough, as those who follow public sector projects in Minot certainly notice.

That’s why news this week from Ryan Ackerman, administrator for the Souris River Joint Board, is such a positive sign.

Ackerman told the Ward County Commission that the board has decided to advance certain projects with money available from cost savings so far.

Design work on protection for Tierrecita Vallejo, a subdivision on the west side of the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass, will begin this summer and finish at the end of 2019, Ackerman said. Design work also is to proceed in Sawyer, where a bridge twice as long as the current structure will be built to improve river conveyance. The replacement of the Colton Avenue Bridge in Burlington potentially could happen this year. It depends on how much work can be accomplished in the time frame left in the year. Other projects the SRJB looks to advance include improvements to move water through Outlaw Creek in McHenry County and river structure improvements at J. Clark Salyer Refuge.

These components of the project weren’t anticipated this early and it’s possible to initiate early efforts only because of the cost savings. The entire flood prevention project is now ahead of schedule.

Interestingly, the economic slowdown and particularly a dip in activity in the Bakken might be partially responsible for the cost savings. Construction costs come down when there is less demand, leading to bids lower than anticipated.

The State Legislature deserves credit for the pool of money that permits the project to advance. Credit also might go to the State Water Commission for allowing use of the money where it’s needed most at the moment. Since the $20 million cost savings is being directed for project components outside the City of Minot, it does not count against the $193 million appropriated by the Legislature over four bienniums.

Cost savings being re-routed efficiently and the entire project ahead of schedule?

That’s uncommonly good news.