Cities ask state lawmakers for flood protection funding

BISMARCK—North Dakota cities struggling to pay for flood protection are asking state lawmakers for financial support.

In between legislative sessions, lawmakers are meeting to hear about water issues across the state. Representatives from Valley City, Lisbon and Fort Ransom were among those to appear before the legislative Water-Related Topics Overview Committee on Monday.

“The record amount of rainfall, snowfall and subsequent flooding have created dire situations in all three communities,” said Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City.

The cities are doing what they can to move forward with permanent flood protection, but none of them are in a position to cover the cost, he said. Valley City Mayor Bob Werkhoven said it’s time for state funding to be allocated.

“The river channel to the Sheyenne is simply not, at this point, large enough to accommodate anticipated flows,” he said. “And we don’t want to be another Minot. All three cities mentioned have run out of money due to the frequency of flooding during this wet cycle.”

The expense to protect Valley City and other flood-related costs in 2009 and 2011 reached $38 million, City Commissioner Matt Pedersen told state lawmakers.

Both the 2009 and 2011 spring floods mirrored the 500-year flood event modeling of approximately 21 feet, he said. If an emergency levee were to fail, the city could experience $217 million in residential, commercial and exempt property losses, he said.

“We were inches away from a Minot this summer,” Pedersen said, referring to the flooding along the Souris (Mouse) River that damaged 4,100 homes and resulted in the evacuation of one-fourth of Minot.

“We had significant rainfall. We almost flooded. We were inches away, so we need to invest in Valley City,” Pedersen told lawmakers.

Valley City’s immediate needs include $3.6 million for property buyouts, he said.

Fort Ransom Mayor James Thernes also asked state lawmakers for help. Three years of unprecedented flooding have taken a toll on the community and exhausted the city’s finances, he said.

“We find ourselves in desperate need of permanent flood control mitigation measures,” he said.

The city would like financial assistance for soils borings and testing, as well as a preliminary engineering feasibility study for the construction of permanent flood control.

Lisbon City Councilman Jerry Gemar said the costs to fight flooding are “getting too much for us to deal with financially,” and the city is losing people due to flooding concerns. The city needs help to move forward with flood protection, he said.

“Due to high costs of fighting the river, our city has depleted their funds and net worth to an extreme level,” he said in his testimony. “We are to the point (of) financial instability to where normal operations in our community are at risk.”

Sen. Tom Fischer, R-Fargo, said his committee is taking information from all of the entities and putting together a booklet of testimony to forward to the full Legislature to review during the special session in November.

N.D. tourism sites receive funding

BISMARCK—Ten North Dakota tourism attractions received grants to support expansions.

The Tourism Infrastructure and Expansion Grants are matching grants requiring the sponsor to provide $1 for every $2 of grant money requested. The total amount of grant dollars awarded for this program is $99,312, a Tourism Division news release said.

The 2011 recipients are:

- Bagg Bonanza Farm, Mooreton, to construct a new basement for the Main House. This is to ensure the safety and integrity of the building as well as increase exhibit space.

- Bottineau County Agricultural Society, Bottineau, to place bleachers from the former State Fair grandstand in Minot on a new foundation at the Bottineau County Fair site.

- Save Coghlan Castle Inc., St. John, for continued restoration of the Coghlan Castle Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway site.

- Enchanted Highway Inc. Regent, to construct the “Enchanted Castle,” a 20-room lodging facility in the former Regent school building.

- Grant County JDA, Carson, to add restroom and shower facilities to a 20-site campground at Lake Tschida.

- McKenzie County Tourism, Watford City, to expand the existing oil display at the Pioneer Museum with scale models of drilling and work-over rigs, showing below-ground activity.

- Wimbledon Community Museum, Wimbledon, to restore the 1913 Midland Continental Depot. Included will be information and artifacts from Peggy Lee, who lived in the depot’s upstairs living quarters as a teenager when her father was the depot agent.

- Dickens Village, Garrison, to restore the “Queen Elizabus,” an authentic double-decker English bus. The project includes construction of a shelter with a clear wall to display the bus all year.

- North Dakota Coon Hunters Association, Fort Ransom, to complete the Sheyenne River Lodge facility to host bench shows, hunter education programs and events chartered by three national kennel clubs.

- Plains Art Museum, Fargo, for construction related to the installation of “The North Dakota Mural” by North Dakota native James Rosenquist. The project also includes the construction of the Center for Lifelong Learning within the museum for arts education.

North Dakota Department of Commerce Commissioner Shane Goettle said the program provides an opportunity to combine economic development and Tourism Division dollars to enhance the state’s tourism attractions, thus drawing more visitor dollars to North Dakota.