Lawmakers were urged on Tuesday to consider an accelerated construction schedule for Minot-area flood protection that could save the state of North Dakota millions of dollars.
David Ashley, Chairman of the Mouse River Joint Council, presented the Water Legislative Committee with three construction scenarios for the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project, including one that would save approximately $55 million in total, of which $37 million would be savings to the state.
Addressing the committee during a meeting at the Sleep Inn & Suites, Ashley noted that approximately $687 million would be needed to complete the project at its current rate, ending construction in the 2039 biennium. -41. This includes $413 million from the state, $203 million in local dollars and the $61.5 million guaranteed by the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and $9.8 million from the program community defense infrastructure.
A different scenario requires a constant commitment of $76.1 million per biennium, which would accelerate project completion by six years, to 2035, at a cost of $640 million, a savings of $47 million. of dollars. Of this amount, $32 million in savings would be realized by the State.
However, another scenario further accelerates the construction. It begins with a state appropriation of $100 million and gradually reduces this commitment over biennia to $63.6 million in the 2031-33 biennium, with a completion date of 2035.
Cost savings would be $55 million out of total expenditures of approximately $632 million, including $376 million state, $71.3 million federal, and $185 million local.
Ashley told the committee that the local dollars are there to expedite the project.
“I have to give credit, basically, to the City of Minot finance department and the town of Minot for thinking about this and trying to make sure we had the local matching funds,” he said. “Bonds have been sold to secure about the next two or three years of construction, and bonds will then be sold to manage the future share of local costs. We’ve covered that. We’re confident we can do that.
“We are also sure that if we accelerate this, we will have the construction capacity to do so. Our team of consulting engineers worked hard on the design moving forward,” he added
Asked about being prepared for any unexpected operating and maintenance costs even as construction continues, Ashley said the board and the local community have thought about it.
“It would take a lot of work, but we are ready to do it”, he said.
Ashley said the joint committee is asking the Legislature to support the third scenario, with the highest cost savings. This scenario would save the state $143.5 million of the $604 million pledged by the 2021 Legislative Assembly to the project, he said. Of this pledge, the Legislature has appropriated $84.5 million in the current biennium.
Ashley however presented a stipulating condition.
“These projections are based on the average inflation rate for the past 10 years. We all know where we are today,” he said. “High and sustained inflation will negatively affect the financial trajectory of this project. This is understandable, but it also highlights the great importance of moving this project forward and doing it quickly.
Ashley cited the removal of thousands of homes from the federal floodplain as an added benefit of accelerated construction. Unless that happens, Minot homeowners in the floodplain will spend $9 million a year on flood insurance premiums. Rates will reach $10,000 a year for some owners, he said.
No committee decision was made on Tuesday.
“Obviously these will need to be discussed during the session, and more in depth,” Committee Chairman Jim Schmidt, R-Huff, said.