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Grand Forks County issues disaster declaration amid record October river crest

A rural road – South 83rd Street – in Grand Forks County shows the effect of high water in this photo from Oct. 15, 2019. (Adam Kurtz/Grand Forks Herald)

GRAND FORKS — Due to record October flooding, the Grand Forks County Commission has declared a disaster emergency in the county.

The declaration means that the county can access money in its emergency fund. Many rural areas in Grand Forks County are experiencing flooding due to heavy rains in late September and the recent blizzard, which closed city and county offices and saw school classes canceled.

The commission made the decision at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 15. As of Wednesday morning, the Red River was at 40.94 feet, which according to the National Weather Service is a record for October. Minor flood stage for the Red at Grand Forks is 28 feet, and moderate flooding begins at 40 feet. The city's flood control system protects Grand Forks to a crest of 60 feet.

One area particularly hard hit this week is the Greenberg Development in Brenna Township, which lies to the south and west of Grand Forks. Another such area is Ferry Township, north of Grand Forks.

The declaration motion, which passed unanimously, will allow the county water board to be reimbursed for expenses related to protecting homes in the county from flood damage. Such expenses come from renting large pumps, along with a backhoe to widen ditches to accommodate all the extra water.

The county's emergency fund has roughly $1 million. The emergency declaration will continue for one month, and then must be revisited by the commission.

In other business Tuesday, the commission voted on a motion to not allow displaced seasonal workers – employed by Express Personnel Professionals, and contracted to work for American Crystal Sugar – to camp at the county fairgrounds. Commissioners noted the facility does not have appropriate utilities, such as water, electricity and sewer. The commission also was concerned the county may be liable if someone were injured on county property.

The commission is also preparing to hand to the Sheriff's Department six eviction notices for properties throughout the county. The notices are due to owners not paying property taxes for three years. The properties have already been seized by the county, and could be sold at an auction on the third Tuesday in November. According to County Director of Finance and Tax Debbie Nelson, such evictions rarely occur, as owners wind up paying their back taxes before they are evicted.