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Published July 16, 2009, 12:00 AM

Flood-relief requests piling up: Cass to submit application next week for first round of property buyouts

Requests for disaster relief are starting to pile up at the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, which has officials touring the state this week to coach communities on the buyout process.

By: By Mike Nowatzki, INFORUM

Requests for disaster relief are starting to pile up at the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, which has officials touring the state this week to coach communities on the buyout process.

The department has received about 100 notices of intent from cities, counties and other entities planning to apply for federal assistance, mostly related to spring flooding, said Ray Morrell, the state’s hazard mitigation specialist.

Each notice contains anywhere from one to 16 potential projects, and they come from “all across the state,” he said Wednesday.

Morrell and a Federal Emergency Management Agency official met Wednesday in Fargo with officials from Cass County and several cities, including Fargo, Harwood and Briarwood, about the buyout process.

Cass County will submit its first formal application for federal buyout funds next week, said Irv Rustad of the Lake Agassiz Regional Council, which is coordinating the process.

The county is seeking funds from the federal Flood Mitigation Assistance program to help purchase 18 homes, mainly in Oxbow and the Butch-r-block subdivision, he said.

In late June, officials said the first-round application would cover 11 homes, but they were able to drag more homes into the group, which meets FEMA’s dollar-for-dollar cost-benefit ratio, Rustad said.

The county will make a second application to the FMA program later, followed by an application to FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

Rustad said it’s not yet known how many homes each application will cover.

“We’re going to try and get as many as we can,” he said.

Wade Nofziger, program specialist at FEMA’s regional office in Denver, said the agency wants to help communities through the process because for every dollar spent on mitigation, it saves taxpayers $4 in the long run nationally. A 2006 study of the Red River in North Dakota found the return was even higher here – $7 for every $1 spent, he said.

Cass County Administrator Bonnie Johnson said Wednesday’s meeting was mostly review for county officials, who are pursuing an aggressive schedule for buyouts so they can move or demolish buyout properties before winter.

This week’s meetings began Tuesday in Jamestown and Valley City and will continue today in Grand Forks and Devils Lake before wrapping up Friday in Mott.

Morrell said Aug. 10 is the deadline for applications for FEMA individual assistance and Small Business Administration assistance for physical damages.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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