The anticipated project timeline has the final design being initiated in Aug. 2021 with construction being bid in spring 2022, construction beginning in the summer 2022 and construction completed in the fall 2023.

Lower Heart Levee Project Moving Forward

The Lower Heart Water Resource District (LHWRD) provided an update to the Mandan City Commission on April 6 regarding its flood protection project. LHWRD Vice Chair Ryan Jockers gave the presentation.  

A 2012 study performed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shows the Heart River levee system is insufficient for continued accreditation in the event of an ice jam during a 100-year run-off event. A follow-up study conducted in 2018 by the LHWRD and approved by FEMA significantly reduced the required remedial work, but did not eliminate all of the necessary improvements. The levee system runs from the second railroad bridge west of Mandan through the city to where the Heart River connects with the Missouri River.

Jockers noted that this issue is driven by FEMA and that LHWRD’s duty is to come into compliance with FEMA’s requirements in parallel with those of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

If the LHWRD does nothing, the flood insurance economic impact is estimated at $9.6 million annually in the levee-protected area of Mandan. This could have a direct effect on property values and many other indirect effects.

Moving forward with this project includes replacing the floodwall, raising the top of the levee in certain reaches, extending a stability berm, seepage remediation, and incorporating interior drainage improvements.  

In 2020, the LHWRD secured $1.2 million from the State Water Commission (SWC) and is utilizing $1 million in funding from its normal operational allocation from Morton County towards the project. The LHWRD will be requesting and additional $9.32 million from the SWC for the construction phase, plus $8.6 million in local funding.

Vote required. To move this accreditation project forward, the LHWRD will need to establish a special assessment district as prescribed in North Dakota Century Code 61-16.01. It will require a positive vote by those being assessed. Voting is based on the amount being assessed (1 vote per $1 assessed) and the LHWRD is currently investigating the most appropriate method of apportioning the local assessments. Significant public engagement and notification of cost to the properties being assessed are included in the next steps. To secure the additional state funding, local funding is required.  

Jockers explained that the $8.2 million local project cost is a one-time investment, however if a “do-nothing” approach is taken, the economic impact is $9.6 million annually.

The LHWRD is still in the process of determining what properties will be in the special assessment district. They anticipate letters being mailed to those in the district in the next few months. The majority of this project’s improvements are within City limits.

Background. The Lower Heart levee system was installed by the USACE and is managed by the LHWRD. The levee dates back to 1949 and has provided flood protection during numerous flood events. A persistent issue Mandan has faced is ice jams, which can artificially raise the water surface elevation of the river and induce flooding that would not normally occur.

The LHWRD is a board appointed by the Morton County Commission that manages 12,200 acres with 45% of its acreage in Mandan, 25% in the extra territorial jurisdiction and 30% in Morton County. The funding for the LHWRD is maxed at four mills from the county budget.

More info. Additional information is available at mortonnd.org/lowerheartwaterdistrict. The LHWRD is creating a website specific for this project.