Erik Burgess, Published July 10 2012
Valley City residents get first look at corps’ flood protection planVALLEY CITY, N.D. – The Sheyenne River slices the city here in two, much like the Red River cuts through Fargo-Moorhead. And, like the Red, the Sheyenne has not always been a friendly neighbor.
The river here has busted through its banks and ravaged the city for years – flood history in Valley City dates back to 1882. But recent floods, including those of 2009 and 2011, in which emergency levees barely saved significant infrastructure damage, have left the city of 6,600 seeking options to keep the river out of its backyard.
Residents here got their first look at what the future of permanent flood protection could look like in their city as the Army Corps of Engineers presented the beginnings of a flood management feasibility study in an open forum on Tuesday evening.
“There is a significant flood risk in Valley City,” Sierra Schroeder, a corps representative, said to a room of about 30 residents and city officials. “Now, I probably don’t need to tell anyone here that. You have lived through it.”
That the area has experienced major flooding in near-consecutive years recently was a major concern for residents at the meeting.
“We’ve seen two very big floods here almost back to back,” Gary Krapu, 68, said. “It’s worrisome to me when I’ve seen the frequency that 100-year floods are occurring.”
City Commissioner Matt Pedersen, who also is chairman of the city’s flood task force, said an initial proposal could provide flood protection for at least Main Street and downtown Valley City for about $20 million. These areas were nearly overrun during the flood of 2009, Schroeder said.
Mayor Bob Werkhoven brought up issues with erosion due to increased flows through the city.
“There are people in Valley City since ’97 who have lost 15 to 20 feet of their backyard,” he told the corps. “The analysis, I hope, will consider these things.”
One issue with flooding in the city stems from flows from Devils Lake. A corps dam and water control system built at Tolna, north of Valley City, controls flows of water that go through the Sheyenne. Many residents here Tuesday raised concerns about the increased flows from the north.
“Whenever we’re thinking about flood protection in Valley City, Devils Lake is the big gorilla in the room,” said John Froelich, a Barnes County commissioner and Valley City flood task force member. He went on to list off the flood protection already in place in Fargo-Moorhead, Grand Forks and Devils Lake.
“I think it’s our turn,” Froelich said.
Corps officials said Tuesday they are not ruling out any alternatives at this time and the purpose of the meeting was to gain community input.
The $1.5 million feasibility study should identify ways the city can reduce the threat from the Sheyenne River, similar to how a Fargo-Moorhead feasibility study culminated in the Red River diversion plans.
The study here should be completed by 2014, Schroeder said. The corps will split the cost of the study with Valley City officials.
The study will have three phases. The first phase includes initial data collection, updating area hydrology, an analysis of current flood damage reduction projects and developing initial alternatives.
The effort is in place now, will cost around $500,000 and should be completed by December, Schroeder said.
Public meetings will be held throughout the study to gain input on possible alternatives. These alternatives will be compared and evaluated in the latter phases of the project, leading to the selection and development of a tentative plan.
Nan Bischoff, corps project manager, said if a federally fundable plan is set in place, typically it is funded 65 percent through federal dollars and 35 percent at the state and local level.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518
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