For the second year in a row, the city of Three Forks is applying for a grant to help fund construction of a canal designed to divert floodwaters from town.

The city council voted Tuesday to apply for BRIC (Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities) grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in hopes of securing 75 percent of the funding needed to construct a $5 million mitigation channel.

Just over a year ago, the city learned that draft floodplain maps soon to be published by FEMA will add 164 acres in the Three Forks area to the 100-year floodplain – i.e., property that has a 1 percent annual chance of flooding. Perhaps more significantly, 153.9 acres in the area have been added to the floodway, where no new development will be permitted. Under existing maps, none of the city lies in the floodway.

The designations on the new maps would have significant implications for property owners, who would be required to carry flood insurance on properties shown to be at risk on the flood maps. It also would significantly limit future development in the city. Current state regulations stipulate that any structures in the floodplain must be built 2 feet above base flood elevation. Permits enforcing the regulations are required for new construction and renovations.

City officials and consultants are optimistic about the city’s chances of being awarded a grant this year. Kelly Smith, Three Forks’ floodplain administrator, said the city has been told there is about twice the funding available this year than there was last year – and that conversation took place before a $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill passed Congress last week (see related story, page 4).

Just last weekend, The New York Times quoted Patricia Hernandez of Headwaters Economics – the nonprofit agency working with the city – as saying the bill’s passage makes it “likely” that Three Forks’ flood mitigation project will be funded.

The city has been working with Great West Engineering to devise a viable mitigation project since fall 2020. At Tuesday’s council meeting, Great West’s Jeremiah Theys said FEMA and state officials “are really supportive” of the city’s application.

The city’s grant application last year “ranked really well within (FEMA) Region 8,” Theys said, though “Region 8 itself didn’t get any projects.”

“We have since debriefed with those folks on how to bolster the application,” Theys added. “They’re pushing hard with this next round to get project funded in Region 8.”

If the application is successful, Three Forks will be responsible for coming up with approximately $1.25 million (25 percent of the project’s cost), as well up to $1.5 million to secure a permanent easement for the channel from a private property owner.