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Permanent, immediate flood protection is Moorhead's top priority

MOORHEAD - Leaders here are hoping to provide permanent flood protection immediately, although that means up-front costs to the city. On Monday, City Manager Michael Redlinger presented the City Council with flood mitigation plans to be completed...

MOORHEAD - Leaders here are hoping to provide permanent flood protection immediately, although that means up-front costs to the city.

On Monday, City Manager Michael Redlinger presented the City Council with flood mitigation plans to be completed in the next two years.

Redlinger said staff had two goals in mind while planning future flood mitigation: to use fewer external resources and to respond to another flood event in less time.

The city spent about $10.7 million fighting the 2009, 2010 and 2011 floods. Of that cost, only $5.4 million has been reimbursed by federal agencies.

"We're also immediately reducing the risk to the general fund reserves," he said. "That risk has really become a burden on the general reserves."

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The city has received some help so far. Last month, the state Department of Natural Resources allocated Moorhead $16.5 million for flood mitigation, which requires a match of about $12.4 million.

Redlinger and City Engineer Bob Zimmerman proposed plan options that included seven possible phases that all begin with a "base plan."

The base plan would include acquisitions of about 56 homes that have voluntarily asked for a buyout and would eliminate the need for more than 1 million sandbags.

The base plan project costs about $18.6 million, of which Moorhead would pay $4.2 million. All seven phases would cost $55.5 million, a total cost of $20 million to the city.

The projects would help protect the city to about 42.5 feet.

"The economic impact (of flooding) to Moorhead is huge. And I would like to see us for once and for all at least put the 42-foot flood to rest," Councilwoman Diane Wray Williams said.

Redlinger said Monday he could begin work on the base plan projects immediately.

The council will now need to decide how many additional phases or projects to include.

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"We're looking for what level of protection you want at the council, and then we can work backwards," Zimmerman said.

To finance the plan, the city could issue bonds to be paid back in a variety of ways, including special assessments, Redlinger said.

Redlinger said if the city issued a 10-year bond, the average homeowner would pay $135 or about $20 in special assessments over the 10 years for the base plan only. The cost goes up with additional phases.

Since the front-end costs are high and staff time will be strained, Redlinger recommended the city put 2013 street projects on hold to finish work on the flood mitigation projects.

Redlinger asked the council to consider which projects it will move forward with by Sept. 12. No votes were taken Monday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

Related Topics: MOORHEAD
As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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