Mayor: Flood left imprint on Minot

The impact of the 2011 flood will be felt in Minot for many years, said Minot Mayor Shaun Sipma, who also sees progress being made in recovery.

“I think we’re as far along as we could hope to be, given the substantial challenges that came along with the flood of 2011,” he said. “To think how far we’ve come, with the state partnered with us, it has been an all-out monumental achievement to get as far along as we’ve come in 10 years.

“Most people, unless they see flood walls and levees when they come into Minot, they would have no idea what happened here. To take a look at what was, in early August 2011, to what it is today, I think is a testament to the resiliency of the neighbors themselves down in the valley,” he added.

Neighborhoods largely are rebuilt, and in some cases, older neighborhoods that needed a facelift now have one, Sipma said.

“You can look around and see that there’s still some work to do on individual houses. Clearly, some folks, even like myself, are still not done with the house 10 years later. But it’s little by little. I think getting most of the ‘zombie’ homes cleaned up was a big step in improving the neighborhood atmosphere of the valley, making sure that kind of derelict debris, so to speak, wasn’t something holding people back psychologically,” Sipma said.

The Souris River flood damaged more than 4,000 structures, including 2,716 homes in the valley, according to city data. In the spring of 2014, a citizen activist counted 370 neglected properties, of which 300 had structures. Due to a focus on getting these so-called “zombie” homes cleaned up, very few remain in 2021. The final properties face foreclosure or other legal issues that are delaying removal, Sipma said.

The two properties that are reminders of the flood are the former Lincoln and Ramstad school areas, he said. Still vacant, the Lincoln property will become part of a proposed water diversion area, while Ramstad remains idle as the school district considers its options, given federal restrictions on the property.

Much of the impact of the flood is less visible, affecting the hearts and minds of residents.

There’s an emotional element in having endured a disaster. With buyouts occurring, some homeowners have additional emotional burden in having to sell homes that house family history.

The city still is working through the acquisition of properties needed for flood control, knowing that every sale that is finalized brings needed closure to additional residents, Sipma said.

The flood also soaked up disposable income as people invested in rebuilding and even now continue to pay off loans.

“There’s a few of them that like to remind me often that they had to go back to work because they were flooded, that their retirement years, literally, were washed away,” Sipma said. “There’s no easy answer for them, because the individual assistance wasn’t enough to offset anywhere near what people’s costs were. I still have my second mortgage, too.”

The economic drain on the community could increase when flood insurance rates rise, as they are expected to do with new flood plain mapping late this year or next year.

Sipma said his attempt to calculate the loss due to flood insurance shows about $9.6 million leaving the community in homeowner payments over 12 years, or $27.6 million over 20 years, if flood control takes that long to build. Combined with rental and commercial properties, Minot could see a loss of $31.7 million over 12 years, or $76.8 million over 20 years, based on his rough, worst-case scenario numbers.

Sipma said the numbers are fluid and dependent on several variables, but they show that a significant amount of money would leave Minot through the flood insurance program.

Values of houses in the valley and the ability to sell those properties also would take a hit under new, higher flood insurance rates, he said.

In addition, the flood will have a financial impact related to the cost of construction of an enhanced protection system and future operation and maintenance of that system, Sipma said.

Improved flood control is one of the positive after-effects for a city that has seen its share of floods over the years, Sipma said. In addition, there’s an effort to ensure functional enjoyment of the river for recreation, he said.

Additionally, the flood forced Minot to address needs, bringing in federal dollars that enabled improvements such as replacing downtown infrastructure and providing more affordable housing, Sipma said. Portions of southeast Minot developed that might not have done so without the pressing needs stemming from the flood, he said.

The disaster gave the community an opportunity to take stock of where it wants to go into the future, Sipma said.

“I look at the long-lasting effects to the community but also look at the good impacts that have come from it,” he said. “We can’t just focus on the negative. We have to focus on the positives that are coming out of this too.”


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