Hoeven Meets with FEMA Official to Stress Need for Flexible Home Buyout Policy in Minot

New Legislation Moving To Make It Easier to Build Flood Protection on Bought-Out Land

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven met yesterday with James Walke, Risk Reduction Division Director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to stress the importance of flexibility in using FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grand Program (HMGP) funds to buy out homes. The senator wanted to make sure that federal funding from various sources are used as soon as and as effectively as possible. In addition, Hoeven’s legislation to allow building flood protection structures on previously bought out land is also moving in Congress. 

Minot is now working with the state and consultants to develop a plan for home buyouts that will meet the cost-benefit ratio FEMA requires in order to make Hazard Mitigation grants. Walke assured the senator that the agency is actively working with city and state engineers to arrive at such a plan. Once the state submits a detailed plan identifying homes that need to be bought out, FEMA can make a decision. Walke also said FEMA would review the application quickly. 

Hoeven said it’s critical to coordinate HMGP funding from FEMA with Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding recently awarded to the city by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for home buyouts. HMGP and CDBG provide important funding for home buyouts, and need to be coordinated with state funding for the city’s flood protection project. The senator worked to secure approximately $77 million in CDBG dollars for Minot and Ward County. 

HMGP funding is expected to be approximately $100 million, of which the federal share is 75 percent. These funds can function like CDBG dollars for home buyouts as part of the full flood protection plan that will also include additional dikes and levees, more storage upstream, either in the U.S. or Canada, and revision of the International Souris River Joint Agreement to improve water management. 

“We wanted to meet to make sure that we’re making best use of both HMGP and CDBG funding, in combination with state resources,” Hoeven said. “These dollars, combined with improved storage and water management can make a big difference in reducing risk as water moves through the valley in the spring.” 

Also, last month the U.S. Senate passed Hoeven’s FEMA Common Sense and Cost-Effectiveness legislation, which provides FEMA with greater flexibility to build permanent levees on land bought-out under its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Current FEMA rules prohibit the building of structures, including levees, on land acquired with HMGP funds, which complicates permanent flood protection planning and forces communities to build and remove levees on bought out lands during each flood event. The Hoeven bill would allow planners to make common-sense decisions on flood protection structures based on circumstances on the ground, as well as be more cost-effective. 

Hoeven’s bill is currently under consideration in the U.S. House, where Congressman Rick Berg is working to gain support for it. The bill will help communities like Minot, Fargo and Red River Valley, Devils Lake, Valley City, Cooperstown and other areas throughout the state to better protect against future flooding.