A proposal to create a new, advisory flood plain for Minot found no friends at a Minot City Council meeting Tuesday.
The council voted 13-0 to reject the plan after hearing from just one resident, who voiced strong opinions against the change.
The council has been considering whether to ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to adopt an Advisory Base Flood Elevation of 9,600 cubic feet a second of river flow, which would expand the area now considered a flood plain from the current 5,000 cfs. The advisory elevation would serve until FEMA finalizes a new, permanent flood plain in three to five years.
The purpose of the new flood plain would be to make a number of homes in the valley eligible for voluntary acquisition using up to $30 million to $35 million in federal hazard mitigation dollars. Disadvantages of the plan include strict construction standards that the city would have to adopt and the requirement that no construction could occur in areas where houses are demolished or relocated using the federal money.
Resident Warren Hoppman said tearing down or moving 400 homes, which is about the number that would be eligible for buyout, would be more costly for the city than the government grant is worth. He related a few of his calculations for maintenance of those empty lots that can never be built on.
"$200,000 a year just for labor, and that goes on forever. Think of the tax money you are not going to have out of these 400 homes, which is going to go on forever," Hoppman said. "It doesn't make a lot of sense at all."
Council member Dave Lehner said even with the defeat of the advisory elevation, FEMA likely will put the revised elevations in place within five years.
"I would hope this would be a wake-up call," Lehner said. "Those who haven't started on their houses should probably make arrangement to do so pretty darn soon because once FEMA forces this through, we will have no control over it."
At that time, restrictive building codes will go into effect, and flood insurance costs could go up.
"Another wake-up call we have as leaders is that we have basically three to five years to fight to save and preserve our community the way it was at the time of the 2011 flood because it's obvious that some of the rules and regulations that come with some of the federal money don't take into account the community," council member Blake Krabseth said. "We have to use our pull with our congressional delegation to make sure we do what's best for our entire community."
Lehner added that work is ongoing in the development of a flood protection plan for the valley. A flood protection project also will affect what the future flood plain looks like.
Last week, Mayor Curt Zimbelman and city staff met with the officials with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services to discuss the repercussions of approving an advisory base flood elevation. Some information was clarified during that discussion, including:
The state is still verifying the information but it appears homes would be eligible for buyout if they sustained more than four feet of water depth. This differs from the understanding that homes must have had at least 50 percent damage. Properties in the footprint of a new flood protection plan could not be purchased with hazard mitigation dollars.
FEMA would not increase flood insurance rates or require insurance in the advisory flood plain, although lenders may require the insurance.
The hazard mitigation money available for home buyouts is estimated at $30 million to $35 million. The total $100 million in potential hazard mitigation funds is already partially obligated, including $25.5 million for work on the Minot Water Treatment Plant.
There is a 26 percent chance that the 5,000 cfs flow, or FEMA's 1 percent annual chance of flood, will occur during a 30-year mortgage.