Grand Forks City Council members receive next steps and updates following Fufeng project

Last week, council members voted 5-0 to stop the Fufeng project.

020723 Fufeng3.jpg
In this Herald file photo from Feb. 6, Grand Forks City Council President Dana Sande and other members of the council listen as citizens testify on the Fufeng project.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – City Council members on Monday were provided an overview of possible next steps now that the proposed Fufeng wet corn mill plant project isn’t moving forward.

Last week, council members voted 5-0 to stop the Fufeng project. Their vote came after the Department of the U.S. Air Force said the corn mill would be a threat to national security due to its ownership ties to China.

On Monday, Feb. 13, council members met during a meeting of the Committee of the Whole. City Administrator Todd Feland briefed council members on aspects within the city's development agreement with Fufeng, which the council approved last year. Some of those items include an area of land that was annexed into the city, as well as the associated infrastructure projects for that area.

Some Fufeng-specific projects that won’t move forward at this time include raw water intake and pump station improvements, the construction of a raw water booster station from the Grand Forks Water Treatment Plant and dual raw water line service to the proposed Fufeng site.

Feland said a natural gas pipeline — which would have served the plant and provided additional natural gas to the community — won’t move forward at this time. Going forward, Feland said the city will have to address some of the natural gas needs that have arisen throughout work on the Fufeng project.


“One of the side benefits of working through this particular project (is) we have discovered that we do not have a large surplus on natural gas supply in our community,” Feland said. “This project’s not moving forward, but as we work on (a soybean crush plant proposed by Epitome Energy) and other future growth items for natural gas, we do have some natural gas concerns that we need to work on in the near term and longer term.”

The one Fufeng-specific infrastructure project that has been completed is a stormwater pond. The pond is being special assessed.

Previously planned city-specific and Highway 81 annexation projects are still slated to continue. Some of those city-specific projects include phase one and two improvements to the Wastewater Treatment Facility, as well as raw water intake renewal. Some specific projects for the annexation area include watermain expansion, domestic sanitary pump station (lift station 49) and forcemain, sanitary sewer expansion, storm sewer expansion, stormwater outfall, paving and repairs to 27th Avenue and improvements to Highway 81.

For city-specific projects, the city has spent $2,251,300. An additional $1,421,400 has been spent on annexation area-specific projects. A total of $3,399,200 has been spent on Fufeng-specific projects, of which $1.2 to $1.3 was for the stormwater pond. Within the development agreement is a $5 million letter of credit for Fufeng-specific projects.

At last week’s council meeting several residents called for the city to reverse the annexation of the land. During Monday’s meeting, City Attorney Dan Gaustad addressed questions about de-annexation and provided council members with annexation statute considerations.

North Dakota Century Code 40-51.2-04 deals with exclusion or de-annexation by petition. That statute provides that a petition must be signed by no fewer than three-quarters of qualified electors and by owners of no fewer than three-quarters of assessed value of property of the de-annexation area. The statute only applies to lands that have not been platted under either North Dakota Century Code 40-50.1- 01 through 40-50.1-17, which relates to platting of townsites or subdivisions, or under Century Code 57-02-39, which relates to auditor’s lots. The statute also only applies to lands where no municipal improvements have been made or constructed in or adjacent to the de-annexation area.

The de-annexation decision is ultimately at the discretion of the City Council. Feland said there are business owners in the annexation area that want to be annexed into the city.

At the end of Monday's meeting, Councilman Ken Vein talked about some of the takeaways from the Fufeng process.


“What I found very interesting about this whole process is probably what worked well and what didn’t work well,” Vein said. “I think as we’ve laid out, there’s things in the annexation agreement that were well done and I believe there’s some things in there that I don’t know was entirely inclusive. I think for me it was a huge learning experience. …”

Vein also listed some items he would like to discuss further, including rethinking the location for heavy industry, water availability and raw water, as well as retention of Grand Forks Air Force Base.

While Vein talked about the discussions within the Base Retention and Investment Committee, he also asked about the plan to move forward in terms of the city’s relationship with the base following Fufeng.

Feland said the city is "working on base relations all the time."

“We are the success story of a base being realigned and not only surviving, but starting to thrive now,” Feland said.

In addition to BRIC, Feland said the city works with Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer on military issues. The city also attends meetings at the Pentagon.

Vein responded by saying "please keep us informed" on base-relations efforts.

"I was notified that there seemed to be a breach of the trust after this," Vein said. "The value of the air base is so critical to us and it's something that is paramount. I think that has to be a priority too."


Said Feland: "I followed up with (retired Gen. David) Deptula to follow up at senior levels in the Pentagon to provide our message of what we did. The feedback that I got was 'thank you for the swift action. ... We understand.' And much appreciation for Grand Forks Air Force Base and the Grand Forks community is the feedback that I got."

In other news Monday:

  • Council member Kyle Kvamme told the Herald Monday afternoon — and he reiterated it during Monday evening's meeting — that the reason he missed last week’s council meeting was a pre-planned family vacation. The Herald noted in a report on Friday that the newspaper attempted to reach Kvamme a number of times, but he said on Monday that he had his phone turned off throughout last week.
  • The council considered approving the plans and specifications for a sidewalk and Americans with Disabilities Act curb ramp projects. Both projects will entail the installation of new concrete sidewalks and ADA curb ramps in newly developed areas of the city, along with locations where existing sidewalk or curb ramps are in poor or unsafe condition. The total cost for the sidewalk projects is estimated at $300,000, and will be special assessed to benefiting property owners. The ADA curb ramps project is estimated at $75,000, and will come from Fund 4891/Sidewalk Repair, which has $50,000 budgeted for 2023. The projects are scheduled to open bids on March 6.
  • Council members considered awarding three bids to Gowan Construction Inc., in the amount of $416,858.50 for flood fight assistance, $52,244 for filling sandbags and $159,000 for crushed concrete for flood preparation.
  • Council members also considered authorizing the execution of a parking management contract with Interstate Parking in the amount of $147,610 to manage and operate the downtown municipal parking system.
Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
What To Read Next
Get Local