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Dave Olson, Published October 03 2012

Corps open to Oxbow-area ring dike

OXBOW, N.D. – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say they can accept the idea of a ring dike to protect the Cass County communities of Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke as part of a proposed flood diversion project.

With a combined total of approximately 180 homes, those communities have faced the prospect of large numbers of home buyouts because they are located in a zone that could see large amounts of stored water as part of a diversion’s operation.

If a ring dike is built, about 30 homes in the area would need buyouts, or they could be moved a relatively short distance and be protected by the ring dike, said Darrell Vanyo, a Cass County commissioner and chairman of the Diversion Authority.

Vanyo said he is excited about the corps’ stance regarding a ring dike and is optimistic it could represent a flood protection solution for communities that face uncertainty.

He said the latest ring dike development will be discussed at the Oct. 11 meeting of the Diversion Authority and there may be a vote on whether or not to endorse the idea.

Vanyo emphasized the communities themselves will have to decide whether the option is right for them, and he expects a lot of questions to be asked.

“It’s not something that’s going to be forced on people if they don’t want it,” Vanyo said.

“But certainly we would hope they give it serious consideration,” he added. “That way, there wouldn’t have to be any buyouts in those three communities.”

Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof said the lack of details prevents him from commenting too much on the prospect of a ring dike, but he said he is open to discussing the idea with federal and local officials.

Nathan Berseth, a spokesman for the MnDak Upstream Coalition, a group that has raised concerns about the impact of a diversion on upstream communities, said he did not have enough information to form an opinion regarding the corps’ new stand on a ring dike.

Vanyo said the corps had been holding to a policy that frowned on putting people inside ring dikes that would have more than 3 feet of water on them, but he said corps officials have now told local leaders a ring dike is worthy of consideration “to save those three developments.”

Vanyo said he isn’t sure how high the water would climb on an Oxbow-area ring dike, but he said the dike itself could be 11 or 12 feet high.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555