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Helmut Schmidt, Published February 07 2009

Board discusses $161 million Southside Flood Control Project

The Southwest Cass Water Resources Board is closer to determining how much residents and businesses in south Fargo and Stanley Township will be asked to pay for the Southside Flood Control Project, now expected to cost $161 million.

The board met Saturday to discuss assessments and other issues tied to the project, which is designed to protect south Fargo and extraterritorial land from flooding by the Red and Wild Rice rivers. Another aim is to also remove the land from the 100-year flood plain.

The board decided how churches, parks, schools, farmsteads, and multistory buildings will be assessed.

Project engineers from West Fargo’s Moore Engineering will use those decisions to calculate costs for homeowners and businesses in the project area.

Board Chairman Tom Fischer said the aim is to make the assessments equitable for everyone west of University Drive.

“We’re trying to get it to the point where we’re treating everyone equal west of (Highway) 81,” Fischer said.

That is the project’s base area, and the current cost estimate for work to protect it is $110 million, though officials said that could still vary.

Fischer said Fargo has agreed that residents east of University will pay the same base assessments as those to the west, but the city will pay the costs of flood walls and other expensive measures to protect subdivisions along the Red River.

“We don’t want people on the west side of 81 carrying the weight of the people on the east,” Fischer said.

The ultimate local cost of the project depends heavily on what the Legislature will allocate.

Fischer and other officials hope lawmakers vote to allocate $50 million this session, and agree to add $25 million in the next session, to cover half of the cost left after federal participation.

The likelihood of getting those funds will depend on economic forecasts due out Monday, Fischer said.

Another wild card is the possibility that more federal funds could be received via the economic stimulus bill. Any money received could pare down local costs, Fischer said.

“Do I think this project is necessary? Without a doubt,” Fischer said.

The Water Resources Board wants to meet 7 p.m. March 3 with officials from the other governments involved on both side of the Red River to present the assessment plan. The meeting place was not set.

Jeff Volk, an engineer with Moore Engineering, said potential assessments should be firmed up by then.

After that, public meetings would be held on the assessments, and a vote on the project would be taken by the roughly 12,000 property owners in the affected area, he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583