WDAY: The News Leader

Published February 04, 2012, 10:23 PM

Living with Water: Northern Valley not getting much help from Government

Manvel, ND (WDAZ TV) - We continue our Living With Water special, a Forum Communications project. The next four weekends, our broadcast and print divisions will look into flooding.

By: David Schwab, WDAY

This is 62nd Avenue, just south of Grand Forks, in the area known as the Burke Addition. The road is built low enough to let coulee water pass over it during spring flooding, but the problem is that about 60 people have to cross here to get to their homes. For the past few years, they've been doing it by boat.

Kevin Pierce - Lives in Burke Addition: "There is a lot of ice out there. We are traveling through high speed water we are trying to get make into the river because there is a drop in the elevation by about a foot. "

No public money is available for a bridge, so Kevin Pierce is one of a group of residents working to build a private bridge. There are 54 properties, so the 1.6 million dollar bridge would cost each owner close to 30 thousand dollars. Pierce says it's a high price, but the bridge could prevent a drowning and give ambulance and fire trucks access during a flood.

Kevin Pierce - Lives in Burke Addition: "We had one guy his kid got cut and needed stitches and it's five o'clock at night and he has to haul his kid across the coolie between the ice chunks and everything else.”

During the last three years, many living along the Red to the north of Grand Forks have had to use boats, or just move off their property until the water recedes.

Luke Hutton – Flood Victim: "Last year it was a couple of weeks, but this year who knows."

That was Luke Hutton talking about the water that surrounded his family's home near Manvel, North Dakota two years ago. At that time he was giving his brothers a ride off the farm by tractor to stay with their grandparents.

Luke Hutton – Flood Victim: "It's just a lot more convenient because we would have to boat every day to get them off to school."

Because of the frequency of floods, Hutton's family built a ring dike to protect their farm. To keep the rural roads dry during a flood they would have to be built up three feet.

Luke Hutton – Flood Victim: "If there is ice on the water we can't take a boat. Because the boat will try and climb up on the ice and we would have to break the ice we take a tractor and we have to have steaks along the road so we can mark the edge of the road so we don't go off.”

Hutton and others living here are hoping with the lack of snow this year means they can relax.

Mike Sweeney – Turtle River Township Board: " If we could get a break. That would mean we would get our roads all back in shape and get a little breathing room."

Mike Sweeney is on the Turtle River Township board. He says even after the flood water goes down, getting the roads back in shape is a long process.

Mike Sweeney – Turtle River Township Board: “We are still waiting for the gravel fund and the rebuilding of the road from last from last year's flood so it's a slow process because of all of the disasters elsewhere."

The river may be eroding more than just roads here... Sweeney says each year he hears more people talking about selling or wanting a buy-out of their property.

FEMA pays for a large percentage of road repairs, but ongoing flooding has drained budgets.

Forum Communication newspapers and broadcast will both continue our special project, Living with Water, tomorrow.