Rural residents to consider alternatives to reduce flooding

A public meeting on alternatives for reducing the flood risk in rural areas along the Souris River will be held Thursday in Velva.

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in Verendrye Electric’s conference room.

Study findings to be presented at the meeting show 12 alternatives, ranging from minimal cost to up to a potential $8 billion.

The alternatives are:

– Advanced discharge from Lake Darling; minimal cost but raises concerns about possible water rights and refuge compatibility issues.

– Increased target discharge at Minot; minimal cost but puts more homes in the flood plain and has the same concerns as the first alternative.

– Non-structural flood storage increase in Lake Darling; minimal cost but the same concerns as the first alternative.

– Structural flood storage increase in Lake Darling; $200 million to $700 million cost with challenges of relocations, coordination with Canada and recreational concerns.

– Ring dikes; $10 million to $50 million with individual landowners providing cost share and maintenance.

– Boundary diversion, consisting of a channel from Sherwood to Westhope; $2 billion to $8 billion with challenges of permitting, impacts to Canada, relocations and constructability.

– Channelization improvements downstream from Velva; $100 million to $400 million with likely difficulty in obtaining federal permits.

– Bridge modifications; $30 million to $100 million with some environmental and erosion/sedimentation impacts.

– Modify J. Clark Salyer Refuge dam operations; minimal cost, likely difficulty in obtaining federal permits and issues with compatibility with refuge mission.

– Remove trapped water after the flood recedes; $3 million to $10 million with concerns about erosion downstream and ongoing maintenance.

– Flood storage on tributaries to the Mouse River; $10 million to $340 million with issues of identifying sites and obtaining permits.

The most effective basinwide alternatives have been identified as advanced discharge from Lake Darling, non-structural flood storage increase in Lake Darling and ring dikes.

However, Vern Kongslie, a Towner-area resident involved in a coalition advocating for better protection for downtown property owners, said there are issues with ring dikes around homes, business and farmsteads in rural areas.

Ring dikes, which trap rain inside them, aren’t the answer, he said.

“Relocation is the only 100 percent flood protection, and that’s what needs to be done,” he said.

With the drainage being done and the current level of dam storage and releases, the problem isn’t going away, Kongslie said.

“We are going to have more flooding, and we need to come up with some permanent, good solution, not a half fix,” he said.

David Ashley of Voltaire, chairman of the Souris River Joint Board, said the board has reviewed the alternatives and wants to hear from the public both those in the rural reaches and others. The board previously hosted workshops to take input from rural stakeholders during development of the study alternatives.

Thursday’s meeting is an opportunity for the public to learn more and better understand the alternatives and also share any insights that might add new information or help tweak existing ideas, Ashley said.

“We all knew going in that there’s no sure, quick fix or total fix for everything, but it gives some alternatives and we want to put them out there,” Ashley said, noting Thursday meeting won’t offer the final word.

“Discussion will continue,” he said.