Rural Residents of Souris Basin Still Waiting for Future Flood Solutions | News, Sports, Jobs
Towner’s Lynn Kongslie is still cleaning up the flooding of the Souris River in 2011 while keeping hopes for an international agreement that can improve the management of the river and save its slums from the devastation suffered 10 years ago.
“It’s so important that we do something now. If we don’t do it, we will never do it for the people downstream ”, said Kongslie, who sits on a US-Canada advisory committee for the river basin.
Building miles of dikes is not the answer to protecting rural areas, noted David Ashley, chairman of the Souris River Joint Regional Council.
“It’s not going to happen, so you have to work on other things, and that’s where it comes down to trying to develop a better management system for the watershed,” he said. “I have seen so many people injured so severely by the flood scenario in the rural areas, and until we can get – or if we can get – this management, it’s going to be problematic, and I a lot of worry about it.
The joint council worked with the Joint Commission of the International Souris River Council on a management study.
“We were moving forward with a very good potential program to alleviate some problems there”, Ashley said. However, he added, “I am very worried about how this will all play out. Again, being an international thing, it’s very complicated.
At this point, it was difficult to reach a consensus. The Saskatchewan Water Authority wants to exercise considerable control because of concerns about dam safety, which is legitimate, Ashley said. At the same time, just releasing water isn’t the answer for North Dakota or Manitoba, he said.
The rural river basin is particularly complex because of the differences not only between different parts of the basin, but even between neighbors, preventing a one-size-fits-all solution from working for all, Ashley said.
Kongslie said upstream mitigation measures in 2011 worsened flooding in his area along the Wintering River. Rural property was often sacrificed to protect more populated areas, and there was no compensation for such damage, he said.
The worst damage in 2011 resulted from high water that remained until the fall, he said. Oak trees between 150 and 200 years old have died en masse because they remained in the water.
“Cleaning is unreal” said Konglie, who continues to haul the dead trees. “It’s just very overwhelming. It will be another 20 years, maybe more. But how to replace these hundred-year-old trees? “
Its hay production has improved a bit with each consecutive year since the flooding, but the fences were replaced with the help of a federal program after 2011 was washed away again in 2013 when Canadian dams crossed the high water in another wet year.
“The bottom of the river took several years to come back. There are still places that are wrong and some on the hay meadows are not correct ”, Kongslie said. “For the pastures and for the hay, it was devastating.
A North Dakota State University study on the impact of flooding on soils is expected to release results later this year, he said.
Kongslie and Ashley both know farmers and ranchers who gave up after 2011, but most rural landowners have decided to either make peace with the river or employ mitigation measures against future flooding.
SRJB’s voluntary Structural Acquisition, Relocation and Ring Dike program provided protection for 35 participants in Ward, Renville and McHenry counties.
Iris Swedlund, who lives on the outskirts of Velva, suffered flooding at her house in 2011 and also took away a two-stall garage and a mobile home used as a store and storage for family memories.
“Everything was gone, but my father’s minnow bucket three miles from the road in a tree” Swedlund said.
She rebuilt a road and its sewage system and was back home when the StARR program offered to help her with more permanent flood protection. The recommendation was to move her unique octagonal house which had been built by her late husband to a hill elsewhere on his property.
“I am a happy camper. I like where I am, “ she said, citing the easy access to a freeway and the peace of mind at a higher elevation. “And I have a nice nice view over the valley of the Souris River.
When it comes to the smaller communities in the basin, Ashley sees progress.
“In general, we are able to move forward. We have secured additional funds. We have just had a very successful legislative session ”, he said.
Burlington has flood protection construction underway, and the Tierrecita Vallejo subdivision project is about to begin. Sawyer, Velva, and Mouse River Park have plans made for new bridges to improve the water supply, which was a major issue in 2011.
“It was a very concerted effort on the part of the Joint Council to try to resolve these issues,” Ashley said. “We’ve been successful in getting funding for real rural activities, and one of the things we’re going to focus on is getting rid of the trapped water. The floods run through, fill the areas, and the way the basin is designed, it overflows the river but it can’t come back. So if we can get that out of this flooded land, that would be a very positive thing to do. “
Support for large infrastructures is another step. In addition to bridges, roads must be constructed or protected to continue functioning during a major flood.
Ashley sees only around 25% flood protection completion for the rural area so far. It’s not as far as he would have hoped after 10 years, but it’s a distorting speed when looking at the regulations and funding barriers that have had to be removed, he said.
“So it went well. Our engineers have been fantastic. Our consulting engineers were fantastic ”, he said.
“The fun part of this is the fact that we are actually moving forward instead of spinning our wheels. “ SRJB board member Clif Issendorf, Newburg, added. However, problem areas remain and Issendorf considers Towner’s area a major area.
“Flood irrigation in the Towner area is the lifeblood of many local people in the livestock industry”, said Issendorf. “You have major problems with the land receiving flood water and not in a timely manner. “
Ashley said rural residents can rest assured that the SRJB recognizes their plight and wants to hear their voice in the flood protection discussion. Although more solutions are needed, the goal of the SRJB remains basin-wide protection, he said.