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.

North Dakota sites recommended for National Register of Historic Places

BISMARCK—A Fargo neighborhood, a Grand Forks synagogue and cemetery, and a Barnes County school will be considered for listings in the National Register of Historic Places.

The North Dakota State Historic Preservation Review Board agreed Friday to forward the nominations, which also includes a Burleigh County school, to the National Park Service for consideration.

Whether the sites are approved will be determined in the next several months, but it’s rare for a North Dakota site to be rejected, said Erik Sakariassen of Bismarck, president of the state review board.

Here are the recommended sites with information from their nominations:

Green Consolidated School #99 near Valley City. This site is considered to be the best preserved open country consolidated school in North Dakota. An open country school means it was built away from a community with a railroad depot.

The school educated students from 1916 until 1974 and since then has been used as a community center. The school met all of the state standards for education and the building gives physical testimony to what those standards were during the time the school operated.

Evelyn Emberson of Silver Bay, Minn., was among those to push for the school to receive a historic designation. Her grandfather served on the first school board, and her mother was one of the school’s first teachers. Emberson attended the school all 12 years.

“It just comes naturally, preserving the past,” Emberson said of her interest in promoting the school. “We call our school a symbol of rural education. We want to keep the school as the school building.”

The B’nai Israel Synagogue and Montefiore Cemetery in Grand Forks. The synagogue is said to combine the design of master architect Joseph Bell DeRemer and his Grand Forks firm with the culturally distinct customs and traditions of the Hebrew community. It also exemplifies the art deco work he and his son designed in the 1930s.

The cemetery is distinct for the customs and burial traditions of the Jewish population. It also hosts the remains of several prominent citizens.

The synagogue’s architecture and the importance of recognizing the history of the Jewish population in Grand Forks make the sites a good nomination, said Peg O’Leary of the Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission.

“They (the Jewish population) have been an important factor socially, religiously and economically in Grand Forks since the 1880s,” she said. “It’s an important story to tell.”

The Fargo Oak Grove Residential Neighborhood Historic District. The nomination is focused around North and South Terrace, bounded on the east by Short Street North and on the west by Elm Street North.

Historically, it is one of the few identifiable, small-scaled residential neighborhoods close to downtown Fargo. There is a tangible cohesiveness in the scale, density, material character and landscape treatment that unifies this neighborhood.

The Oak Grove residential neighborhood took shape and took on its present architectural character as a range of middle-income houses and related infrastructure from 1895 to 1952. The predominance of working-class, gable-fronted mechanics’ cottages and vernacular bungalows is a reflection of consumer tastes during this time period.

Florence Lake School #3 in near Wing, N.D. The school was originally built as Sterling School #2 in 1917 but was moved to Florence Lake Township in 1937 after the earlier school burned.  This small prairie schoolhouse has unusual architectural details that recall the classical style.

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s list of properties considered worthy of preservation, a news release said. North Dakota now has about 400 listings, said Lorna Meidinger, the state’s National Register coordinator.

Valley City State, NDSCS projects approved

BISMARCK–Lawmakers charged with finalizing the state’s higher education budget approved a few campus projects this morning.

They include funding for the Rhoades Science Center at Valley City State University and the Bisek Hall renovation and addition project at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton. Each project will receive $10.5 million.

The committee also approved $5 million in general funds for a geothermal energy project at Minot State University.

The committee of three House members and three Senate members is still working out details on the rest of the budget.

Project Safe Send update

A record amount of unusable pesticides – 215,594 pounds – were collected and shipped out of North Dakota through Project Safe Send in 2010, according to a news release from the state Ag Department.

“More than 400 people brought in more than 100 tons of unusable pesticides to the 12 Project Safe collections sites earlier this month,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said in a statement. “Once again, this response indicates a continuing need for this program.”

The previous record of 215,521 pounds was set in 2008, the year that also had the greatest program participation, 535 people.

“More than 7,000 people have used Project Safe Send since 1992 to get rid of their unusable pesticides, more than two and a half million pounds,” Goehring said. “The program has also enjoyed strong, bipartisan support in the Legislature.”

Project Safe Send collections were conducted during July in Adams, Ashley, Cando, Carrington, Crosby, Larimore, Minot, New England, Underwood, Valley City, Wahpeton and Watford City.

The Larimore collection gathered the most chemicals – 61,887 pounds – and was second in participation with 53, while Valley City had the most participants – 79 – and was second in total pounds collected with 45,878. (A listing of collection sites and totals follows this release).

Long-banned products, such as DDT, arsenic and mercury compounds, were among the chemicals brought in this year. One of the more unusual items was an old cream can filled with arsenic-based grasshopper killer.

Veolia Environmental Services of Blaine, Minn, collected, repackaged and transported the waste chemicals to out-of-state incinerators.

For the first time, empty pesticide containers were collected for recycling at five Project Safe Send sites. Container Services Network picked up 13,060 pounds of plastic containers at Ashley, Carrington, Minot, Underwood and Valley City. The recycling program is funded by the non-profit Ag Container Recycling Council.

Project Safe Send is funded by fees paid by pesticide manufacturers to register their products in North Dakota.

“Project Safe Send remains an easy and affordable means for farmers, dealers and homeowners to get rid of these dangerous chemicals,” Goehring said. “As more pesticides become obsolete and are no longer usable for current applications, the need for Project Safe Send remains.”

City
No. of participants
Lbs. collected
Container lbs. collected

New England
31
13,379

Watford City
12
1,869

Crosby
24
3,529

Minot
47
21,234
2,200

Underwood
29
6,771
420

Ashley
15
6,970
1,340

Carrington
43
10,998
2,600

Valley City
79
45,878
6,500

Adams
33
12,146

Cando
26
4,477

Larimore
53
61,887

Wahpeton
51
26,456

Totals
443
215,594

Driver license sites change hours

The Oakes, Lisbon and Valley City driver license sites will have new hours starting Aug. 1, according to a release from the state Department of Transportation. With the exception of holidays, the hours at the three sites will be as follows:

 

Oakes: Open the first Wednesday of every month from 9:20 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.

Lisbon: Open the second Wednesday of every month from 8:40 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.

Valley City: Open the first and third Tuesdays of every month from 8:20 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.

All sites will be closed from noon to 1 p.m.

The new hours of business with provide full drivers’ license services, including drivers’ license renewals, duplicates, permit tests and road tests.