Roseau to get final federal funding for flood protection project
Roseau officials received word this week that the city’s flood diversion project would receive full funding from the federal government, putting the project on track for completion by the fall of 2015.
It’s a huge relief for the small northwest Minnesota town, which has been working on the project since the devastation of the 2002 flood. Much of the project has already been constructed.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this announcement,” Todd Peterson, the city’s community development coordinator, said Wednesday. The project had been funded in “bits and pieces” over the years, he said. “This is the first time we’ve really had an end in sight where we saw it was going to be finished.”
Waiting for feds
The project will divert high water from the Roseau River into a channel that goes around the city, splitting the flow of the river to make water levels manageable, according to Mayor Jeff Pelowski.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pegged the cost of the project in September at nearly $42 million, with $24.3 million coming from the federal government.
The local and state share is already in place, Pelowski said. “So this was the last piece.”
“While this project has moved too slowly in the past, I’m very pleased with the news of its inclusion in the Corps work plan so they can move forward with the final phases of construction and finally get this done,” U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said in a statement Wednesday.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both Minnesota Democrats, weighed in as well, congratulating local officials for keeping up the fight. “The local community never gave up and worked hard with us to fight for this project and ensure permanent flood protection for residents and businesses in Roseau and the surrounding region,” Klobuchar said in a statement.
Homeowners across the country in flood-threatened places, such as Roseau and Grafton, N.D., have seen significantly higher flood insurance premiums over the past few months because of changes made to a federal program in 2012.
“It’s a huge problem, and one that threatens our entire housing market,” Todd Peterson said. Some houses aren’t selling because of higher insurance premiums, and some people who just bought houses are seeing payment hikes they weren’t expecting, he said.
Pelowski said the flood protection project will take virtually the entire city out of the floodplain where homeowners with a mortgage are required to carry insurance. He said being taken out of the floodplain should also mean lower premiums.
“We had hoped this project would have been completed a lot sooner so we wouldn’t have to worry about these things,” Peterson said.
A bill making its way through Congress could help with those spiking flood-insurance premiums.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the bill was passed by the House on Tuesday. It would effectively bring back the process for determining premiums that existed before the Biggert-Waters Insurance Reform Act passed in 2012, he said.
The Senate passed a similar bill in late January.
Hoeven said the Senate could take up the House bill later this week or early next week.
“We think it’s a big improvement over how (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) was implementing Biggert-Waters,” he said.