Protection questions remain

Reducing the size of a proposed flood protection plan for the city of Minot wouldn’t be cost effective, judging by numbers presented this week to city officials.

The city was told that if the project was built to protect the city from a Souris River flow of 27,400 feet per second, Minot’s share of the $820 million cost would be an estimated $543 million. If the scope of the plan was reduced to protect the city to a level of 10,000 cfs, Minot’s share of the cost would be about $30.7 million less, a savings of roughly 6 percent.

Granted, $30.7 million is a lot of money, but it wouldn’t make sense to reduce the level of protection by such a large percentage without recouping corresponding financial savings. The price tag wouldn’t change much because city officials want to keep the project’s footprint the same size, so the level of protection could be built up to 27,400 in an emergency. That means the same amount of money would be spent on acquiring land and easements, and the nine miles of flood levees and 2.2 miles of flood walls would have to be built to the 27,400 standards in case the levees had to be raised in an emergency.

There are still unanswered questions that make the city’s ultimate decision on the size and scope of a flood protection plan much more difficult. For instance, if changes can be made with Canada to the management procedures of the Souris River, or if changes are made to upstream storage basins like Lake Darling, does the city need protection to the 27,400 cfs level? If not, can the footprint of the protection plan be reduced enough to significantly change the total cost of the plan?

It would seem that those questions, along with others, need to be answered before the city can commit hundreds of millions of dollars to any project.