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Wendy Reuer, Published January 21 2014

Cass County considers applying for FEMA home-buyout money

FARGO – Cass County is considering asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help it buy up to 49 houses along County Highway 81 after the city of Fargo found out it could not use FEMA funds for a floodwall along Second Street.

Fargo applied for $25 million from FEMA to build the floodwall, but FEMA said in December that the wall is considered part of the F-M Diversion and hazard mitigation money can’t be used on diversion-related flood control projects.

FEMA said it would still like to use the money in this area, so Cass County Engineer Jason Benson suggested the county consider buying vulnerable homes that lie along Highway 81 in the Chrisan Subdivision and Forest River Road, south of Round Hill and Heritage Hills.

The city of Fargo is considering building a permanent levee on the west side of Cass 81 from 64th Avenue to 70th Avenue South. Benson said buying the homes would clear the way for the levee and eliminate the county’s cost for a $6.4 million levee and floodwall on the east side of Briarwood.

Benson estimated the cost of the buyouts would be $8.6 million.

City Administrator Keith Berndt said the homes were previously not eligible for a buyout based on older FEMA regulations, which have since changed.

Berndt said some of the homes north of Oxbow but south of Forest River likely would eventually be bought out as part of the diversion process.

“So it gets us a little ahead on those,” he said.

The county could use its own funds to pay its 15 percent share of the project or it could ask homeowners to pay, Berndt said.

Board Chairman Ken Pawluk said he wants more information before making a final decision about how many homes to buy for flood protection.

“I’m not convinced we need to buy out all the homes in west Chrisan to make that happen and I’m really tired of buying homes and knocking them down,” Pawluk said.

At its regular meeting Tuesday, Cass commissioners agreed to begin the process of applying for the FEMA money.

Pawluk said the commission will likely discuss the buyouts again on Feb. 3.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530