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Productive year for flood protection

Light fixtures illuminate the newly completed Fourth Avenue flood wall and the improved Fifth Avenue roadway near Third Street Northeast.

Progress was made on Souris River flood control in 2020 with the completion of two phases of a protection project in Minot and the advancement of additional work in Minot and Burlington.

In October, project sponsors signed off on the final completion of the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project’s Phases MI-2 and MI-3 in west Minot, which had begun in the spring of 2018. Public facilities in this phase included the Dakota Bark Park, new walking path and underpass and the recreational parking area where the old Forest Road west was located. Wee Links Golf Course will open in the spring of 2021.

The path on the surface of the levee that has been completed will remain graveled until the Maple Diversion Project is finished. At that point, contractors will construct a shared-use path of asphalt on top of the levee.

The MI-1 phase, from Broadway to Third Street Northeast, made significant progress in 2020, including the finishing of Fourth Avenue floodwalls. Paving of Fourth Avenue has been completed and a new signaled intersection opened at Fourth Avenue and Third Street Northeast in November.

Interior finishing work will continue over winter on the Broadway pump station, with the expectation of a June completion. Other finishing work, such as temporary road closure structures, also are needed to complete MI-1 in 2021.

Meanwhile, work has been ongoing on MI-4, or the Maple Diversion Project. The work involves relocation of utilities between Minot Public Library and the Moose Lodge in preparation for construction on the roughly $2 million project.

In Burlington, cleanup associated with the completed construction of the new Colton Bridge was accomplished and work started on levees.

Wagner Construction has about 50% of the current levee construction phase completed and should finish next year, said Ryan Ackerman, administrator for the Souris River Joint Board. The next phase of the levee is to be bid this winter and is expected to take two construction seasons, he said. Full enhanced flood protection could be in place for Burlington by the end of 2022.

Another project phase that will be coming up for construction is located on the west side of the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass near Tierrecita Vallejo. The project is fully designed, permitted and funded and is awaiting completion of property acquisitions, Ackerman said.

The completion of the Tierrecita Vallejo area project is one of three additional phases necessary to reach the milestone of having 60% of the flood zone protected to the level of the 2011 flood. Project sponsors also will need to complete the Maple Diversion Project and the M1-5 phase, extending from Third Street Northeast to east of 13th Street Northeast.

Design of the Maple Diversion is about 50% complete, Ackerman said. It still awaits Congressional authorization for funding. Ackerman said the hope to to obtain a $60 million appropriation.

The re-design of the M1-5 phase is about 60% complete and could be at 90% by spring, Ackerman said. Acquisitions still are ongoing as well. Because construction pricing typically is more favorable over the winter, that phase likely will be bid in early 2022, he said.

Design work is occurring on three bridge replacements – at Sawyer, Velva and Mouse River Park. Overall, the design is 75% complete, Ackerman said. The Sawyer and Mouse River Park bridges are on schedule for construction in 2022 and the Velva bridge in 2023.

A piece of the flood protection project that is wrapping up is the Structure Acquisition, Relocation and Ringdike (StARR) program. The rural program has worked with 35 participants in Ward, Renville and McHenry counties. There have been 166 structures acquired, three relocated and one ring dike built, according to the Souris River Joint Board. Total spent as of late December was $10.4 million.

Looking ahead to the 2021 legislative session, the State Water Commission’s request for $76 million for the MREFPP is included in the governor’s budget. Of that amount, $33 million is a re-allocation of 2019-20 funds being held back due to a state revenue shortfall. New dollars in the budget amount to $43 million.

The revenue shortfall reduced the $13 million appropriated to the Tierrecita Vallejo to $6 million through the biennium ending June 30, 2021. It also resulted in SRJB reducing the amount set aside for the MI-5 project by $26 million.

Ackerman said other legislative funding bills are likely to offer alternate proposals. For instance, a bonding bill proposed by Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner would appropriate $102 million to the MREFPP over four years, or about $51 million in each of the next two bienniums.

With the MREFPP phases already completed, Minot is in a better position even if not yet protected from another flood like the one in 2011, Ackerman said.

In 2011, a significant amount of manpower and resources went to protect the Minot Water Treatment Plant and the area along Fourth Avenue. Should another record flood threaten the city, those flood-fighting resources could be deployed to protect other parts of the city because higher levees and flood walls now exist in those critical areas.

“We are managing risk. By themselves, the systems don’t protect up to the flood of record,” Ackerman said. “But they are levees that don’t need to be raised. We are reducing risk because we can re-allocate those emergency resources during a flood.”

An appeal that would remove many Minot homes from the proposed flood plain is in the hands of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Minot City Council voted in October to submit completed documents presented by Ackerman-Estvold to FEMA through the agency’s appeal process. The council had voted in February to proceed with an appeal of proposed flood plain maps.

FEMA has identified 10,000 cubic feet per second as the 100-year flood level. That is twice the flow that has been considered a 100-year flood event.

The appeal argues that historical Souris River management, particularly the drawdown of Canadian dams, results in a 100-year event that would not be greater than about 8,000 cfs.

A successful appeal would reduce the number of Minot land parcels in the flood plain from about 3,900 to about 3,400, reducing the cost of flood insurance for those residents.

According to engineers, the appeal will affect not just Minot because changing the hydrology data has implications throughout the Souris River Basin.

Additionally, Minot’s process to remove blighted properties, which started with 34 structures, had nine remaining near the end of 2020, according to the City of Minot. Blighted structures have been demolished or repaired.

The city reported having acquired 169 properties for the flood protection project as of the end of November, using funds through the National Disaster Resilience program and State Water Commission.

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