North Dakota asks for FEMA help for June flooding

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The Grand Forks County Office Building, photographed on Nov. 23, 2015. Photo by Nick Nelson/Grand Forks Herald

Flooding in June in Grand Forks County has resulted in yet another application for assistance to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In an Aug. 4 online meeting that was marred by technical glitches that rendered speakers mute for periods of time, County Engineer Nick West told the Grand Forks County Commission that storm damage amounted to about $1.2 million throughout the county. The threshold to apply for assistance from FEMA is $1 million. The application was submitted last week by the state Department of Emergency Services.

The storms dumped nearly 10 inches of rain on areas in the county that resulted in washed out roads and culverts. Particularly affected were Emerado, west of Grand Forks, and Manvel, to the north.

West also told the commission he has been hearing from some county residents, mostly located in the Manvel area, who are asking to be bought out by the county due to being frequently flooded.


“Either they’re always flooded, or they can’t get to their home and they’re tired of it, and they’re tired of taking boats,” West told the commission.

In particular is a home two miles north of Manvel that has had access cut off by flooding four times in two years. The home is protected by a dike and has not been damaged, but the home is served by a bridge that often goes underwater and is then closed. Complicating matters is the fact that this bridge, which West called the “second worst” bridge in the county, serves only that one home.

Commissioners pushed back on the notion of engaging in buyouts out of concern it would lead to a flood of people asking for them. West was tasked by the commission with comparing the costs of replacing the bridge, buying out the family, or building another road to accommodate them. The owners are a military family, West noted, and were not familiar with flooding in the Red River Valley when they bought the home.

In other commission news from Tuesday's meeting, commissioners moved to set up an early voting precinct at the Alerus Center for the November election. The precinct will be open from Oct. 26-Nov. 2, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., excluding weekends. The commission previously moved to vote by mail, but to shorten lines on election day at the only physical polling place in the county, an early voting precinct was established. Grand Forks’ only physical voting precinct is also at the Alerus Center.

Also, the commission declined to provide funding to two organizations in the region, citing a lack of service agreements with those entities. Service agreements are a necessary condition for the county to provide funding to an entity. Former mayoral candidate Robin David asked the commission for $2,000 to help fund the Welcoming Committee Roadmap, when it finds its new location. The city previously removed funding for the project except for $15,000 -- a sort of grant to a nonprofit that takes in the program.

The commission also declined to provide funding to the Safe Kids program, citing the lack of an agreement, no specific dollar amount requested from Carma Hanson, a program representative, and the fact the county’s budget for 2021 has already been determined and can’t now be increased. Safe Kids is dedicated to reducing injuries in people under 19 years old. The group is funded almost exclusively by Altru Health System, which can no longer continue to do so.

The commission didn’t rule out potential future funding for the two groups, and will explore service agreements between them. The groups were invited to appear at a later date.

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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