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Grand Forks City Council members receive updates on Epitome Energy, Fufeng Group projects

Updates on Epitome Energy related to infrastructure development and other industry that is located around the site.

Grand Forks City Hall
Grand Forks City Hall, 255 N. 4th St. Sam Easter / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – Updates on the proposed Epitome Energy soybean crush plant and Fufeng Group wet corn mill — including infrastructure development and the status of development agreement conditions — were presented during Tuesday’s meeting of the Grand Forks City Council.

Updates on Epitome Energy were related to infrastructure development and other industry located around the site. The soybean crush plant is proposed to be built on the northwest edge of the city.

The Epitome site is near the city’s water treatment plant, solid waste landfill and Transportation Partners & Logistics. The Fufeng plant also is proposed to be built on the city's northern edge, but on the east side of Interstate 29.

City Administrator Todd Feland said existing infrastructure connected to the city’s wastewater treatment plant will be able to serve the Epitome plant.

The next step for Epitome is to create a development agreement and the conditions that will be included within that agreement. An information request has been submitted to Epitome Energy to aid with that process.

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City task orders proposed to support the development agreement include a traffic study and a utility infrastructure concept analysis to address potable water supply, water protection and wastewater collection treatment and reuse. A payment in lieu of taxes (also referred to as a PILOT agreement) for the project still needs to be negotiated.

During Tuesday's meeting, Epitome Energy CEO and founder Dennis Egan reiterated the company’s commitment to the project.

“Our commitment is to be engaged and to be at as many council meetings as we can through this process,” he said.

Updates presented to the council on the Fufeng project were in regard to conditions within the development agreement. More than 100 conditions/requirements in the agreement are actively being tracked, with some of those conditions relating to the traffic, raw water supply, wastewater and environmental factors of the project.

Many submissions were slowed due to a federal review of Fufeng Group's plans by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Shawn Gaddie, a consulting engineer with the engineering firm AE2S, said development of the cost for improvement projects to the wastewater treatment plant is a couple of months behind schedule. Feland said the schedule is being revised.

Among other setbacks is the air emissions permit, which was submitted to the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality on Oct. 4, but was delayed until the CFIUS review was complete. That air permit review process is now underway and an air dispersion model has been requested, according to Paul Boersma, associate vice president at Black & Veatch, a construction engineering company.

In other Fufeng updates, Boersma said there will be focus on developing the final site plan, which is expected to be designed in phases, during the first and second quarter of 2023. Actual building plans are anticipated to be submitted by quarter three and four of this year. Environmental reviews are still ongoing, and City Council updates on the project are expected bi-weekly throughout the first quarter of this year.

Opponents of the Fufeng project attended Tuesday's meeting and voiced their concerns. At one point the council had to pause the meeting as people in the crowd talked over Feland as he wrapped up the presentation.

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Also Tuesday, several residents talked about the benefits the Greenway provides for the community, along with some of their concerns of snowmobiles being used on the Greenway.

The Greenway is the stretch of public land adjacent to the Red River. It was created in the wake of the Flood of 1997. A local snowmobile club this winter voiced a request for expanded use on the Greenway, which at present has very limited access for snowmobilers.

“I’m very concerned about the children that could possibly be injured by the speed at which snowmobiles are able to travel,” Margaret Jackson said. “Now I understand that the plan, if there is a plan, would have a speed limit, but I’m really concerned about enforcement. It’s my understanding and it has been my experience that you really don’t get any enforcement on the speed limit or even folks who are riding those vehicles in places where they’re not supposed to be presently.”

Although several residents shared their concerns about snowmobiles and the potential dangers, many said they would like to see something get done to have a safe route for snowmobilers.

“It’s a Greenway, not a motorway. But I recognize snowmobilers enjoy their recreation. They want to get from one end of the city to the other, and I’d like to see them accommodated if it’s possible,” said Jim Whitehead. “But it’s difficult to allow unrestricted snowmobile use or any motorized vehicle use in the Greenway and still have it as a Greenway.”

Council members had a second reading for an ordinance relating to snowmobile routes and approved the ordinance, which will have the mayor designate snowmobile future routes within the city, with approval from the council.

Since 2002 the chief of police has designated the routes annually, though council members discussed amending city code 8-1203 (2) after the Red River Snowmobile Club proposed expanding the snowmobile route along the Greenway.

READ MORE GRAND FORKS CITY COUNCIL NEWS

In other news, council members:

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  • Approved $127,918 to High Point Networks for the continued implementation of security systems in City Hall. The security project began earlier this year with the installation of cameras and door controls at the HIVE and second floor of City Hall.
  • Approved a preliminary engineering reimbursement agreement with the North Dakota Department of Transportation for the Columbia Road overpass project. City engineering staff are anticipating hiring an engineer for the design of the project using federal funds. The total cost of the project is estimated at $8.93 million, with the city paying $2.186 million and federal funding covering the remaining $6.744 million. Funding for the local share is anticipated to be funded from the Street/Infrastructure Fund. The project is anticipated to be bid in late 2023 or the spring of 2024, and construction is expected to start during the 2024 construction season.
Related Topics: GRAND FORKS CITY COUNCIL
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 MArbegast@gfherald.com.

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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