Flood Control Plan for North Dakota’s Souris River Valley in Limbo

August 21, 2014

Plans for an $823 million flood control project for the Souris River Valley in North Dakota are in limbo due to federal policy changes and disagreements in Congress.

Corps of Engineers officials are studying new rules that impact changes to existing flood levees and the type of environmental study needed for projects, according to the Minot Daily News and KXMC-TV.

Bills in the U.S. House and Senate also differ on whether the corps can start new projects, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said it is doubtful a final bill will pass before the November election.

“We’re kind of holding and waiting to see what they say,” Minot Public Works Director Dan Jonasson said.

Regional corps officials said they don’t influence national policy.

“We do have some support from our division for this if we can do new starts,” said Judy DesHarnais, deputy district engineer for project management with the corps in St. Paul, Minnesota. “We think there’s potential, which is why we really would like to have this one move forward.”

The June 2011 Souris River flood caused by heavy spring snowmelt and rains resulted in nearly $700 million in damage in Minot, and also affected some rural areas and communities in the north central North Dakota valley. Minot wants to start construction on the long-term flood control project, but federal money is needed for the effort that would include $530 million in improvements in Minot.

City Manager Cindy Hemphill said Minot and the state might be able to provide startup funds. The Legislature next year will be asked for $70 million to help pay for more than $102 million in flood control improvements, property buyouts and engineering costs. Minot also has designated a half percent of its city sales tax for flood control, amounting to from $6 million to $7 million a year.

The city receives many phone calls from people who went through the 2011 flood and are concerned about future protection, according to Mayor Chuck Barney.

“The psychological impact on the community is still raw, and we need to address it,” he said. “We need to protect the citizens and their property and the whole basin.”

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