Souris River runoff declared minimal

Each year in February the International Souris River Board meets and has on its agenda the spring hydrologic forecast and planned operations for Souris River reservoirs. The ISRB met Thursday at Bismarck’s Kelly Inn and determined that his year’s runoff into the Souris River will not reach the 1-in-10 threshold necessary to be declared a flood event.

The number is significant. If the ISRB declares a 1-in-10 runoff event the operation of Lake Darling Dam on the Souris River above Minot is removed from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and turned over to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district office in St. Paul, Minn. That will not be the case this year, provided conditions on the ground do not significantly change in the coming weeks.

The amount of snow cover in southern Saskatchewan is a major factor in determining the amount of runoff in the Souris River Basin each spring. Snowfall in southeastern Saskatchewan in the Souris River drainage region has been minimal this winter and, to date, is not expected to be sufficient enough to create anything more than normal or below normal runoff.

According to the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency, the central section of the province is where heaviest snowfalls occurred this winter. The agency is already warning that “flooding issues are likely” in north central Saskatchewan. Fortunately for those living along the Souris, the Souris River drainage is more than 200 miles to the south and far outside of the affected area.

The International Souris River Board is comprised of 14 members, seven each from Canada and the United States. Co-Chairmen are Todd Sando of the N.D. State Water Commission and Russell Boals of Regina, Sask. Among the U.S. representatives is Col. Daniel C. Koprowski, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District. Koprowski replaced Col. Michael Price who was the St. Paul District commander during the flood year of 2011.

Presenting the spring 2014 hydrologic forecast to the board were John Fahlman, Gregg Wiche and Allen Schlag. Fahlman is the director of hydrology and groundwater services for the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority in Moose Jaw, Sask. Wiche is the district chief of the U.S. Geological Survey in Bismarck. Schlag is chief hydrologist for the Bismarck bureau of the National Weather Service.

“This year the Souris has not been designated as a one-in-ten flood event,” said Schlag. “The Flow Forecasting Liaison Committee will make an updated recommendation on March 9 by conference call. I think it would take a remarkable change in weather patterns for us to reach a designation of a one-in-ten. We’re just not seeing a lot of moisture inbound for the time being.”

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the ISRB is scheduled to be held in Minot June 24-25. Ironically, June 25 will mark the three year anniversary of the historic flood crest of 1,561.72 feet at Minot’s Broadway Bridge where flood stage is listed at 1,549 feet. Approximately 11,000 residents were displaced by the 2011 flood that severely damaged about 4,000 homes.