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Published October 11 2011

Clay County to ask state for $2 million more for flood buyouts

MOORHEAD – Clay County officials will request $2 million more from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in the hopes of funding the rest of the county’s 2011 flood buyout program yet this year.

County leaders were previously apprehensive about the availability of extra state dollars needed to cover the estimated $7.9 million program, but state DNR officials calmed the concerns last week.

The state Legislature allocated $5 million this summer toward Clay County buyouts, with the understanding that an extra

$2 million could be requested at a later date.

Clay County, with the help of the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District, is required to match up to $1 million toward the total project cost.

With 10 of 17 properties in the Crestwood neighborhood accepting initial offers, state officials said Clay County could request the remaining state aid this fall rather than wait until next year when legislative action would be necessary to obtain the funding.

“We have hopes of getting it yet this year to make this a complete package,” County Administrator Brian Berg told commissioners Tuesday. “Timing is really important to get this request in.”

Clay County plans to buy out 31 flood-afflicted homes this year, including up to 17 homes along the Red River in the rural Crestwood neighborhood south of Moorhead.

Realtor Greg Anderson said he plans to meet with two other property owners there who plan to accept the buyouts, leaving five properties that will likely decline offers made last month by county leaders.

The Crestwood homeowners have until Sunday to accept the offers.

Starting next week, county officials said they plan to move forward with offers to at least 14 other properties in the county that are on the priority list for Clay buyouts.

More properties not currently on the list will receive offers, too, in order to make up for Crestwood homes that opt out of the voluntary program.

The offers to Crestwood properties posed among the greatest headaches for Clay leaders so far in this year’s buyout program.

A resistant few protested the county’s offer as unfairly low, but leaders ultimately settled on a compromise last week.

Clay County commissioners approved that agreement Tuesday, which adds back a property-value deduction imposed on the Crestwood homes because of riverbank slumping after the 1997 flood.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541