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Grand Forks city officials plan for next phase following buyout plan

Click to play video: 'Grand Forks city officials move ahead to next phase of flood mitigation efforts' Grand Forks city officials move ahead to next phase of flood mitigation efforts
Grand Forks city officials move ahead to next phase of flood mitigation efforts – May 6, 2020

Two years after the Kettle and Granby rivers swamped low-lying properties in Grand Forks, the city’s buyout program is well underway, and officials are now slowly shifting their attention to possibly moving houses and returning the area to a green space.

“I’m looking forward to this phase of the program being over because it’s been incredibly difficult for everyone involved,” Grand Forks’ flood recovery manager Graham Watt said.

Facing a housing crunch, the city doesn’t want to lose any more homes, so it’s looking at options like physically moving houses out of the high-risk flood plain, Watt said.

READ MORE: Homeless in Grand Forks call for housing ‘so we don’t freeze to death’

“Right now there’s deep analysis on the movability on the home,” he said. “You have to look at each of these houses, what needs to be done to fix it in the new place, how much will that cost compared to the cost of sending it to the landfill.”

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The city wants to minimize the number of homes going to the landfill, Watt said.

The city is also looking at developing in-kind options for residents who don’t want to take their buyout offer – things like a land swap, he said.

READ MORE: Higher water levels expected this weekend in Kettle River system: Regional district

“We’re trying to give people as much personal choice as possible,” Grand Forks mayor Brian Taylor said. “The bottom line is we want people to stay in Grand Forks.”

Watt said city staff are expecting council direction on the in-kind program within the next month or so.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to have it in parallel at the same time as the property acquisitions because it’s a fairly complex process,” Watt said.

READ MORE: Grand Forks residents unhappy with proposed flood plan: ‘I’m not prepared to move’

The hope is that the city will be able to reach a deal with every landowner, but if not, they’ll have an opportunity to speak to council, Taylor said.

“Before there’s any further action taken, either courts, expropriation, those kinds of things, there will be a real opportunity for council to respond to those individual situations that are unique,” he said.

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More than 90 per cent of offers have been accepted so far, and nearly 70 single family homes are progressing towards contracts and closing, Watt said.

READ MORE: City of Grand Forks makes offers on homes flooded in 2018

“I guess I have a good sense of hope that the next phase that’s going to be about flood protection and land restoration, bringing back room for the river, that Grand Forks will definitely be able to build back better into the future,” he said.

The entire flood mitigation program is expected to cost approximately 55 million dollars. Approximately $17 million of that will go towards the buyout program.

Click to play video: 'City of Grand Forks makes offers on dozens of previously-flooded properties' City of Grand Forks makes offers on dozens of previously-flooded properties
City of Grand Forks makes offers on dozens of previously-flooded properties – May 1, 2020
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