At least forty property owners have accepted offers for their land from the City of Grand Forks, as part of the city’s massive flood mitigation buyout plan.
As of April 17, the contractors in charge of the project had approached nearly 100 residents with offers and was finalizing contracts with 26 of the first 40 offers.
The agreements, said Grand Forks’ manager for strategic initiatives Graham Watt, are sale agreements that do not so far take into account some of the in-kind options the city is looking at (such as house relocation and serviced city lots). However, some of them may end up being deferred sales, meaning that residents could get the bulk of the price for their property up front without having to move right away.
“If the engineering means that we can provide more time and [residents] still want to stay longer, we can defer that as needed,” Watt said.
Watt said that heavy work in North Ruckle is not slated to begin for several years, for example, where dike work along the river will start in 2021.
Based on the deals struck thus far, Watt said that buyouts are costing more than had originally been budgeted for, noting that the city’s original grant application was based in part off of preliminary appraisals, and that real estate value in the region has also generally increased since the application was submitted. An upcoming May report to council from Keystone Appraisals, the company contracted to negotiate with residents, is expected to offer an updated look at the plan’s budget next month.
The city said that, based off current pickup for Keystone’s offers, it expects around 90 per cent of the 140 property owners to accept offers presented. Keystone’s own timeline identifies September 2020 as when it will have sent out offers to everyone. Property owners who wish to appeal can file for appeal within 30 days of receiving an offer.
From there, a review panel of at least three independent members will evaluate each case and recommend an adjusted price.
At its April 6 meeting, Grand Forks city council unanimously approved the review process in general terms, but has yet to identify how pannelists will be selected.
“It’s critical that […] it’s not the city or Keystone that will be choosing these individuals – that we’re going to have a very independent process of review,” said mayor Brian Taylor before approving the review process.
A selection process is expected to be presented to council next month.
Preparing for 2020 freshet
While the buyouts are part of a years-long flood mitigation plan, there is still a real anxiety around how the city and regional district are preparing to handle 2020’s freshet.
Watt said that repairs of existing infrastructure have been done, but permitting and design for new features is still stretching into this spring.
“I think any good flood response is also a combination of the permanent infrastructure and the temporary protective work,” he said. Lessons learned in the 2018 flood have been incorporated into the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s flood response plan, which Watt said gives a greater understanding on the temporary resources needed and timing to deploy them, based on water level triggers.
Using a tiger dam on the south end of Riverside Drive instead of a sand berm covered in plastic (which was overtopped) could have led to better results for protecting that area of town, Watt offered as an example.
The city’s updated floodplain mapping, released last fall, also indicates in more precise detail where temporary dams would be most effective.
Residents wanting to prepare sandbags can contact Grand Forks Fire/Rescue at 250-442-3612 or the River Valley Community Church at 250-444-4400.