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Grand Forks City Council members review task order agreement for south-end flood protection master plan

The evaluation will serve as the master plan for stormwater analysis and flood protection.

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In this screen grab from a Jan. 9, 2023, city broadcast, City Engineer Al Grasser talks to Grand Forks City Council members about a task order agreement on the south-end flood protection master plan.
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GRAND FORKS — A master plan for south-end flood protection was presented to members of the Grand Forks City Council during their Committee of the Whole meeting Monday evening.

Last spring, City Engineer Al Grasser gave the City Council an overview of overland flooding and risk evaluation . From the feedback received from council members, the city's Engineering Department issued a request for qualifications to hire a consultant engineering firm to provide a hydrology and hydraulics evaluation of the city’s future development areas on the south end. The evaluation will serve as the master plan for stormwater analysis and flood protection.

The rain events and flooding that occurred in April 2022 raised some concerns, Grasser said.

“I’m very concerned if we had the gates closed at the time that water came through, I don’t think our pumps would have been able to keep up,” Grasser said.

The flood protection system in Grand Forks consists of levees along the river and pumping stations to address interior drainage from water that’s coming in from outside of the city. Grasser said there is more water coming into the city from rural areas than originally expected, which needs to be addressed.

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Additionally, Grasser said updates to technology are needed so that the newest computer software and data is being used.

The task order agreement is between the firms AE2S, HDR and Bolton & Menk, which were ranked as the most qualified for the work by the selection committee.

The proposed master plan has several tasks, including data collection and overview; developing an existing model; future risk evaluation to the existing flood protection system; interior flood protection master planning; stormwater and drainage standards upgrades; and outreach, documentation and reporting.

Phase two will consist of the implementation of phase one results along with any updates to standards and city policy. The end result of the master plan will create the best approach for continued southern expansion without impacting existing development and flood protection facilities along the English Coulee and south-end drainway.

The total amount on the engineering services is estimated to be $568,670 and will come out of the city’s Flood Protection Capital Maintenance Fund, though Grasser said additional analysis may be needed on Drain 4 and its capabilities.

Also Monday, council members continued discussion on an agreement with SRF Consulting Group Inc., to provide scoping engineering services in the amount of $151,170.33 for both the inter-city and Merrifield bridge projects.

While East Grand Forks City Council members approved the agreement at their Nov. 15 council meeting, Grand Forks council members voted 4-3 at their Nov. 21 meeting to not concur with their counterparts in East Grand Forks on the agreement. Last week both councils met in a joint meeting to further discuss both bridge projects and the services SRF will provide within the first phase.

Although Grand Forks council members are, for the most part, on board with the agreement and the additional information it will provide, some said they would prefer the scoping services to only focus on the Merrifield bridge project.

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“It would take a lot for me to support an inter-city bridge,” council member Danny Weigel said during Monday’s meeting. “I do, however, support a Merrifield bridge. So I struggle with do I vote ‘no’ on this and it doesn't move along the Merrifield bridge, which I think is ultimately what the city of Grand Forks needs and I think it’s what is in our best interest.”

Another debate on the inter-city bridge is where it would be located. Council members agreed to change the language within the agreement so that there is no set location for the inter-city bridge throughout the scoping phase.

City staff are still proposing a four-way cost split for the services by factoring in Grand Forks and Polk counties, since the Merrifield bridge will be a county-led project.

READ MORE GRAND FORKS CITY COUNCIL NEWS
The discussion came at the end of the regularly scheduled Committee of the Whole meeting. Among the topics was council member Ken Vein’s question about the plant’s water access and consumption.

In other news Monday, council members:

  • Gave preliminary approval to a request from Half Brothers Brewing Company LLC to change from a Class 16 brewer taproom alcoholic beverage license to a Class 3 on/off-sale beer and wine license. While the business originally had a Class 3 alcoholic beverage license, Chad Gunderson, the owner of Half Brothers Brewing, requested the City Council to consider creating a new alcoholic beverage license for a brewer taproom at the end of December 2017. That request and an ordinance establishing the Class 16 brewer taproom license was approved at the time. However, as the business has grown — the establishment now distributes through wholesalers across the Midwest and soon in Winnipeg — Half Brothers Brewing is requesting to change its license back to a Class 3 alcohol beverage license.
  • Reviewed the plans and specifications from the Engineering Department for several mill and overlay projects on various streets in the city and the Greenway. The mill and overlay work will include sections of Hamline Street, Cambridge Street, Harvard Street, Princeton Street and Fifth Avenue North around UND; a section of DeMers Avenue around the Railroad Crossing at the Amtrak station, the Alerus Center parking lot, and the bike path along the Greenway. The total cost of all projects is estimated to be $990,000 with funding coming from a variety of sources, including the street and infrastructure fund and the Flood Protection Capital Maintenance Fund.
  • Received a legislative session update on where to find bills that relate to Grand Forks legislative priorities. Bills specific to those Grand Forks priorities can be found under the legislative session section on the city’s website. One of those bills is House Bill 1199, which will allow for money to be borrowed from the Bank of North Dakota to pay for inflationary costs related to technical education centers. In Grand Forks, for instance, construction on a proposed tech center has been delayed while the project awaits $10 million in state funding. Technically, the $10 million in due from the federal government, to flow through the state and then to Grand Forks, but it has not yet come. Meanwhile, the delay is causing the overall price to rise, due to inflation.
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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