THREE FORKS — The city of Three Forks sits at the headwaters of the Missouri River where the Gallatin, Madison and Jefferson Rivers converge. The Jefferson River is the site where a new mitigation channel might be built. If it is - it may finally solve the city of Three Fork’s flooding concerns once and for all.
The news was welcomed by some residents.
Chris Lien lives in Three Forks and owns several businesses and properties in town.
“I own the lumber yard, I’ve got the ready mix right here behind me, I have a couple rental buildings, and I own the daycare,” said Lien.
Lien says he wishes he wasn’t required to pay flood insurance.
“I honestly view it as a fleecing of the taxpayer dollar,” said Lien. “I think if the City of Three Forks can mitigate that in any way it would benefit the town.”
With a possible $4.15-million flood grant, the city is hoping to do just that.
The last time Three Forks flooded was in 1948. The city has been mapped in the floodplain since the late 1970’S. In 2011, FEMA created an updated map showing there would be a much bigger breach of water than expected coming about 2 miles before the bridge on Highway 287.
City Clerk, Crystal Turner said when she heard the news and saw the updated maps, she was in shock.
“When I first heard about it, seriously I thought about quitting,” said Turner. “ I don’t think people realize how devastating it is.”
City treasurer, Kelley Smith said she thought about packing her bags as well.
“Any red area you see on the map, you can’t build any new structures,” said Smith, gesturing at a large map of the Three Forks area. “Telling people, they have to build up is one thing but telling them they can’t build at all in a small community is… yeah we both talked about it.”
This is the town’s second go-round seeking federal help to prevent Three Forks from being affected by the 100-year flood.
If the town gets the FEMA grant, a mitigation channel will take Three Forks out of the Jefferson River floodplain. It will capture floodwater and direct it back into the river before it reaches town.
Smith says technically, Three Forks does not yet officially have the $4.15 million in grant money.
“We’re hoping to hear within a month or so for sure if we have the grant and we’re figuring construction won’t start until the end of next year,” said Smith
If the city receives the grant, it will need to gather up the remaining 25 percent of the project cost, which is estimated at $5.5 million.
In addition to putting an end to the town's concern about flooding, homeowners will also no longer need flood insurance.
On September 27th the city sent out a notice to residents that they are trying to create a Special Improvement District to pay for the city’s portion of the grant. The community has 17 days to protest the project if they wish to do so.
“For twenty years, it would be around $200 a year and then the maintenance of the channel would be about 20 dollars a year,” said Smith.
Smith said after the twenty years are up, the $200 payment will be dropped and residents will only have to pay the $20 a year.
“I would be in favor of that,” said Lien.