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Sincerely, City Hall

Sincerely, City Hall

A message from your government about the most topical and relevant information currently circulating throughout the community. 

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Feb 05

Bill would be boost to infrastructure projects

Posted on February 5, 2021 at 1:43 PM by Bryan Obenchain

Every session, hundreds of proposed bills wind their way through the political process at the North Dakota Legislature. A unique feature of our Legislature is that every bill receives a hearing, no matter how large or small the issue or the effect of the proposed legislation.

The 2021 Legislature is no different in that regard. Bills are being debated every day and given either a “Do pass” or a “Do not pass” recommendation from committees. While some bills are small in scale and scope, there is always a group of bills that has the potential to create real-life change for our state’s communities and residents. 

House Bill 1431 is one such bill. 

This proposed legislation is at the top of our list at the City of Minot. HB1431 would play a vital role in progressing the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project and our community’s planned Center for Technical Education project. The proposed legislation includes $74.5 million for the basin-wide flood protection project and $9 million for the CTE project in Minot. 
 
The 2017 legislative intent spelled out $193 million for flood protection work inside the City of Minot over an eight-year period. That construction would get the project, in Minot, complete up to the first milestone, which would provide protection of approximately 60 percent of the valley. The first milestone includes the first five phases of the project. However, there has been ongoing confusion surrounding the intent of that $193 million in regards to the overall cost of the entire basin-wide project. 

It’s an enormous amount of money, and we certainly appreciate the Legislature’s previous and current support as we continue to push forward on the largest infrastructure project in Minot’s history. That funding has allowed us to make visible and real progress on protecting our community and others from future flooding. 

The $193 million from 2017 was intended to help fund only Phases 1-5 of the project. Work on Phase 2 and Phase 3 is complete, while Phase 1, which includes floodwalls along Fourth Avenue Northeast and the storm water pump station near the Broadway Bridge, is nearing completion with the station’s pumps anticipated to be tested sometime this spring. 

Phase 4, also known as the Maple Diversion, is in the design stage and in late 2020 we received authorization to use federal funding on this phase. We are working with our congressional delegation and other federal partners to secure federal aid to help fund this approximately $90 million phase. Phase 5 will combine flood walls and levees to the east along Railway Avenue to complete that portion of protection. That process is in the design phase.  

Remember, the $193 million dedicated to this project in 2017 was intended to help fund the first five phases inside Minot – but there are many phases remaining that include work near Burlington to the west of Minot, and phases that stretch from roughly Third Street Northeast in Minot to the east side of the City.   
 
The MREFPP has always been a basin-wide project, one that will protect not only Minot, but our neighbors to the east and west. It’s vital to complete the entire project, since an unfinished project does not provide adequate protection to all residents of the river valley – in Minot, above or beyond the city. We must remain focused on the entire project. That’s why HB1431 is so important. 

At the current rate of state appropriation, we anticipate construction lasting another 20 years before the MREFPP is complete. That’s 20 years of watching the river every spring, hoping we don’t repeat the calamity of 2011. That’s 20 more years of increasing inflationary construction costs and 20 more years of costly flood insurance premiums for residents in the river valley. 

HB1431, if approved, is a step forward that can help change that for Minot. The next step will be accelerated funding from the state. With accelerated funding, we would be able speed up the building process and reduce the construction time to between 12 and 14 years, reducing the number of years our residents will have to keep a wary eye on the river. The savings in Minot alone with an accelerated build rate would be more than $100 million.

Finally, leveraging Legacy Fund earnings for long-term low-interest loans for communities like Minot to use as local match dollars for projects would be further investment in North Dakota that would compound the savings. The financial tools could be capitalized by many communities in North Dakota for major water infrastructure projects. We, as a state, simply have to find the will to take them out of the tool box and put them to work.

HB1431 is vital to the future of many infrastructure projects in North Dakota, and right here in Minot with the MREFPP. Please contact your local legislator and urge them to support this crucial piece of legislation. 

Sincerely, City Hall.

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