The North Dakota State Water Commission on Wednesday approved the buyout of four flood-damaged Hoge Island homes at a cost of up to $1.9 million. The plan received strong backing from Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

The state will pay 75 percent of the costs, or up to $1.42 million. The Burleigh County Water District will pay the other 25 percent — as much as $475,000 from its reserve funds.

“We are expecting the final costs will come in substantially lower than that ($1.9 million) with insurance and salvage value,” said Bruce Engelhardt of the Water Commission. He said the total buyout costs won’t be known until the negotiations are completed between homeowners and the water district, but the application ensures there are enough funds available under the plan.

Water district chairman Gailen Narum said the home acquisitions are needed to allow a $1 million levee to be built on the north side of Hoge Island and protect multiple properties.

“We’re buying the propert(ies) to build the dike,” he said. “The homeowner has two options. He can sell us the property with the homes on them or they can sell the property and keep the homes and relocate them.”

Narum said there should be salvage value if the homes are sold with the property.

The water district’s negotiations are under way with the four homeowners who said their homes are not inhabitable and cannot be resold. They include the property of Jerome Rodgers at 9750 Island Road, valued at $305,600 in 2010 for 2011 taxes; Dr. Stephen Bernard at 9700 Island Road, valued at $316,400 pre-flood; Rodney Boll at 9828 Island Road, valued at $324,400 pre-flood; and the Brad Magnus home at 9806 Island Road, valued at $361,000 pre-flood. The Magnus home sunk into the Missouri River in 2011.

State Water Commissioner Harley Swenson supported the project, but questioned the fairness in buying the homes based on their pre-flood values when nearby homes also sustained steep flood damage costs.

“It seems to me everyone’s homes were depreciated by being in a flood plain. ... Everyone had diminution of property values. Even the ones not being bought out. It seems it’s not a fair use or good use of taxpayers’ money,” Swenson said.

Dalrymple said after homes were repaired, that “the home values are snapping back. People are realizing home values very close to what they were pre-flood for the most part.”

He said the four properties at Hoge Island are unique because “they have been damaged by the failure of the riverbank riprap job. ... The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should really be responsible for the restoration of the bank and the damage done by the failure of the project.”

Dalrymple said that has been difficult to prove.

He likened the homes’ damage to those in Minot. He favored using money allotted by the Legislature for the buyouts.

“Their property was destroyed by circumstances beyond their control,” Dalrymple said.

Water commissioners were told when the homes were built, they were above the previous flood plain.

“The levee will not get done this year. That will be next year,” Narum said after the action. “The design may get started once we get the purchases completed.”

Reach reporter LeAnn Eckroth at 250-8264 or leann.eckroth@bismarcktribune.com.

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