Rebuilding Dreams 4
State and federal aid has been flowing into Minot and the Souris Valley to help the region recover from the 2011 flood – and to prepare for future floods.
In the fourth part of our series, “Minot: Rebuilding Dreams” – Prairie Public’s Dave Thompson reports on how the state of North Dakota is assisting Minot with recovery and prevention.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple reaffirmed the state's commitment to Minot in a recent speech.
“The state of North Dakota will not waiver in its commitment to working with the Minot city leaders and with our Congressional delegation to continue to advance flood recovery and flood protection for the people of Minot," said Dalrymple. "And we will be there to make sure that this city is better than ever before.”
In an interview, Dalrymple talked about the investments the state has made thus far.
“To date – and I’m talking about June of 2013, the state has provided about $200 million to assist Minot and Ward County," said Dalrymple. "It’s on-going – because the Legislature appropriated more than $60 million in this legislative session to continue the work of home acquisitions and engineering and design for flood protection.”
FEMA and other federal agencies have also put money into Minot. But Dalrymple says those dollars come with red tape.
“On every home, even the most modest home, in Minot that needs to be acquired, we discovered that we were required to complete, through the local government, no less than two environmental assessments on each house," said Dalrymple. "Common sense would tell you – when the entire block is wiped out, maybe there’s an assessment that could be done on more than one house at a time. Or: Why would you have two separate environmental assessments done – one for health reasons, the other for historic preservation reasons. Why could you not combine those somehow?”
Dalrymple says he’s tried to cut through some of the red tape – but hasn’t had much success. And he knows it can be frustrating.
“Well, it adds time," said Dalrynple. "People still know where they’re going and what they want to accomplish, but it adds time to the process.”
Dalrynple says the state has done a number of other things to help Minot residents rebuild. One is the “Rebuilders Loan Program” – also approved by the Legislature.
“That makes it possible for any person who received public assistance from FEMA to get a $30,000 loan to fix up their house," Dalrymple said. "The good thing is – no principal or interest due for two years, and ultimately the interest rate is one percent, and the credit requirements are not difficult to meet. It put cash into people’s hands, and allowed them to get to work.”
That’s a $55 million program.
In 1997, when Grand Forks was devastated by the Red River flood, millions of federal dollars poured into the community to help it recover. Some Minot officials say they’re concerned that – because of the current federal budget situation, the city won’t get the same kind of federal response.
“If you look at the funding they received at that time, and figuring what those same amount of dollars would be today, we’ve not received anywhere near that kind of federal assistance," said Minot city manager David Waind.. "And honestly, with the condition of the federal budget, I don’t think that we will.”
Waind says it’s fortunate that the Minot economy continues to be strong – thanks, in part, to the oil boom in Northwest North Dakota.