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Backers of two big water projects want to shorten construction timelines

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Two large North Dakota water projects are seeking to shorten their construction timelines.

Backers say that would save money in the long run.

One of the projects is the Red River Valley Water Supply project. It will bring Missouri River Water to the Valley – and other areas of central and eastern North Dakota -- in times of drought.

The supporters want to build out the project in six years, instead of ten.

Merri Mooridian is the administrative officer and project manager, and is employed by the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District.

"What we're really finding is that a six-year build is the most efficient," Mooridian told the Legislature's Water Topics Committee. "That roughly saves state and local governments $100 million, compared to our ten year work plan."

Conservancy District Chairman Duane DeKrey said this would also add certainty to the timeline for the project – and that would also help with the cost.

"If you went into a dealership to buy a pick-up, and they told you, 'This is the price for it today. It's gonna take us 20 to 30 years to build it — and we're not exactly sure what the price is going to be in the end, or what the options are going to be — and, by the way, it's starting to deteriorate and depreciate right now," DeKrey told the Committee. "The quicker you build it, the quicker you solve those problems."

DeKrey said inflation would likely add another $20 million to $30 million to the cost of the project per biennium.

The mayor of Mint told the Committee he would like to adopt an accelerated timeline to finish the Mouse River Flood Control Project — which affects Minot and areas both upstream and downstream from the city.

Shaun Sipma told the Committee the project is currently on a 20-year build cycle. But he said going to a 12-year schedule would save money – not only in construction costs, but in flood insurance costs.

"Just this past October, FEMA rolled out 'Flood 2.0,' for flood insurance," Sipma said. "What FEMA rolled out is a 65 percent increase for the base flood insurance policy for properties in Minot."

Sipma said FEMA has built in an “escalator” for flood insurance premiums. And he compared the cost of flood insurance under a 12-year buildout with a 20-year buildout.

"Rental dwellings, commercial properties in Minot combined at a total of $50.8 million in Minot," Sipma said. "In the 20 year build, that total cost is $123 million."

Sipma said the cost savings would be $72 million just for Minot — and he said if you add the further reaches of Ward County, and into McHenry County, the savings would be $80 to $85 million.

Sipma said the project is already ahead of schedule.