ND Gov, US Sen. have flood talks with Sask premierBISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said two provincial reservoirs that hold water back from the Souris River are being kept at lower-than-normal levels to make them better able to contain potential spring flooding in North Dakota and southern Saskatchewan.
By: Dale Wetzel, Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said two provincial reservoirs that hold water back from the Souris River are being kept at lower-than-normal levels to make them better able to contain potential spring flooding in North Dakota and southern Saskatchewan.
The premier met Friday with North Dakota U.S. Sen. John Hoeven and North Dakota's governor, Jack Dalrymple, in the provincial capital of Regina to discuss flood control policy. The three men spoke at a news conference afterward.
The Alameda and Rafferty dams in southern Saskatchewan were completed in the mid-1990s in part to provide flood protection to North Dakota communities along the Souris, which loops through Burlington, Minot, Velva and other cities before winding back north into Manitoba.
The United States contributed $41 million toward the project's construction costs in exchange for flood water storage space in both reservoirs.
Last year's heavy melting snows, followed by about 7 inches of rain over several days in mid-June, filled both reservoirs and forced them to release more water than the Souris channel was able to handle.
The result was widespread flooding downstream, including floods that destroyed or damaged more than 4,000 homes in Minot, N.D.
"Of all the water that has flowed down the Souris River in the last century, 25 percent of it flowed through last year," Wall said.
Dalrymple said Saskatchewan officials plan to manage the dams' reservoir levels to anticipate more plentiful spring rains, explore dam improvements and look into whether the Souris' river channel can accommodate greater water flows than have been previously considered normal.
Wall said both the Rafferty and Alameda reservoirs are now about 3 feet below their normal operating levels.
"We obviously will have some flexibility to increase the (water) release ... and hopefully avoid, obviously, what we saw last year," Wall said. "We are going to be prepared to limit the problem."
Hoeven said state and federal officials are exploring whether another Souris impoundment, Lake Darling, which is northwest of Minot, could be changed to hold more water.
"You're going to see more (water) storage where we can create it," Hoeven said. "You're going to see levee work, diversion work, along the river."
Dalrymple said Saskatchewan officials did all they could to fight last year's flooding, but said the volume of rain and melting snow was too much to handle.
"There is nothing that our Saskatchewan neighbors could have done or would have done that would have improved the situation on the river whatsoever," Dalrymple said. "We were overwhelmed by a catastrophic amount of water."