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Wendy Reuer, Published February 01 2011

Lisbon residents willing to help pay for buyouts

Residents of Lisbon, N.D., raised their hands in support of helping to pay for permanent flood protection during a meeting Monday night.

“We had a good turnout for the meeting. It looks like the citizens are definitely going to be behind us,” Mayor Ross Cole said.

Cole said Monday night’s meeting was scheduled to find out if residents were willing to pay for some of the 18 buyouts FEMA plans along the Sheyenne River in exchange for permanent flood protection.

“We just did a show of hands to see who here is willing to open their pocketbooks. It looked like 100 percent of the people who were there raised their hands,” Cole said.

For the city to pay for seven of the 18 buyouts considered by FEMA, Moore Engineering estimated the cost to the city would be about $520,000 with future levee construction done over several years.

A presentation by Moore Engineering offered residents three options: do nothing; allow FEMA to buy all 18 homes; or split the 18-home buyouts with FEMA.

If FEMA buys all of the homes, it limits the city expense to about $100,000. However, the city would not be allowed to build permanent flood protection on FEMA-owned land and future flooding would still cause the city to build and remove emergency levees.

In 2009, the Sheyenne River crested at 22.86 feet in Lisbon, almost reaching the 500-year flood state of 24.3 feet.

On average, Cole said the city is protected to about 22 feet. Some areas have protection of only 19 feet, while others have up to 23 feet.

The National Weather Service said Lisbon faces a 51 percent chance of major flooding or reaching higher than 19 feet this year.

Cole said the next step will be to discuss how to proceed with special assessments with the city attorney, which could lead to a ballot measure for official approval by residents.

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