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David Luessen, Forum News Service, Published April 28 2014

First phase of Valley City flood protection moving forward

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – City Administrator David Schelkoph said Valley City is inching ahead with its Permanent Flood Protection Plan.

The Valley City Commission approved plans for floodwall construction on the Valley City State University campus and if the State Water Commission approves $11.6 million for the project, work on the walls is expected to begin later this summer.

Jessie Wald, Water Commission public information specialist, said the commission still needs to review some engineering drawings from KLJ, the city’s engineering firm, but expects this issue will be addressed next month.

“We’re actually still waiting on the paperwork and the entire request to be submitted to us, but everything should be further discussed at the May 29 Water Commission meeting,” Wald said.

Schelkoph said the diking system is somewhat modeled after Grand Forks’ system. It will be a combination of clay levels and permanent concrete walls. The walls will be about a yard tall and will be built along the sidewalk on College Street in southeast and southwest Valley City. In a flood emergency, aluminum panels will go up on top of the wall to hold back water. The panels will be light enough to be assembled by hand to reduce the need for cranes or heavy equipment.

“It will look something like a 3- or 4-foot-high fence if you will – a concrete wall,” he said. “It’ll look really nice and people can walk by it and see over it and see the parking lot and the walking bridge and those things by the college there.”

Schelkoph said the $11.6 million for Phase I has already been set aside for the Valley City project by the state Legislature, but will not be allocated until the city can show the project is shovel-ready. To complete Phases II through VI, the city plans to ask the Legislature for $60 million during the next biennium.

“We would have been asking in six years or three bienniums for this money, but since there is so much money in the fund right now, the State Water Commission fund, the city feels why not ask for it now and see where it goes,” Schelkoph said. “Will we get all that money? That’s entirely up to the state Legislature and ultimately, after the state Legislature, the State Water Commission.”

The city has already bought out 46 properties at a cost of about $4.5 million, with $1.4 million of that figure coming from city coffers and the rest from the SWC. The majority of those properties were single-family dwellings, and Schelkoph said the move has led to a housing short-age in Valley City.

“There are people working on that and trying to make available some lots for sale,” Shelkoph said. “So anybody interested in Valley City (housing) development we’d be more than happy to entertain anybody that would want to come in and talk to us.”

Schelkoph said the city is looking to minimize any future buyouts as the flood protection plan progresses.

“We really don’t want to do that too much more,” he said. “It’s a lot of trouble for the citizens of Valley city, but also, it’s a lot of work and a lot of money.”

The city began developing the protection plan in 2011 after suffering its worst flood in history in 2009 and its second-worst in 2011.