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Mark Brodshaug, Published November 04 2013

Letter: Selective criticism misleads

I serve as chairman of the Cass County Joint Water Resource District, and I serve on several other boards, including the Red River Joint Water Resource District, the Richland-Cass Joint Water Resource District, and the Red River Basins Commission, all of which are involved in developing flood storage in the Red River Valley. In response to an Oct. 28 opinion by Trana Rogne that contains misleading information about our ongoing efforts to locate suitable flood storage sites in the valley:

Water resource districts in North Dakota and watershed districts in Minnesota have worked to develop flood storage in the valley since the 1970s. In 2011, the districts commenced a plan to use newly available flood modeling to identify potential flood storage sites in North Dakota and Minnesota that would provide local benefits in the tributaries of the Red River. The tributary site identification and storage plans have been completed in the southern valley and local WRDs and Watershed Districts are beginning to discuss the feasibility of the sites identified.

As part of its Long Term Flood Solutions plan, the Red River Basin Commission established a goal to reduce flood flows on the Red River by 20 percent through the use of flood storage. Keep in mind that a 20 percent flow reduction at Fargo equates to less than 2 feet of river stage reduction; so even if we can implement enough storage to meet the 20 percent flow reduction goal, Fargo will still experience a flood.

The RRBC has always understood that flood storage would be constructed for local benefits first, and the 20 percent target for the main stem would be a secondary benefit. In order to determine the practicality of the secondary 20 percent goal, the RRBC initiated a modeling study, funded by the FM Area Diversion Authority, which combined the local flood storage sites identified by the WRDs and Watershed Districts in the various sub-watersheds. The purpose of combining the sites was to calculate the resultant secondary flow reduction seen on the Red main stem.

The RRBC is coordinating a final quality control review of their main stem flow reduction study with modeling experts from the Army Corps of Engineers, Minnesota DNR and the North Dakota Water Commission. Once the modeling has been reviewed and accepted, local project sponsors will utilize the modeling to determine and illustrate how their flood storage project has a secondary benefit to the F-M area.

If a local project can show a benefit to the F-M area, the Diversion Authority has pledged to fund a share of the local costs from its $25 million budget for flood storage. The $25 million offered for flood storage is a great opportunity for WRDs looking to build sites they have identified. The funding also shows the Diversion Authority is serious about regional flood reduction projects that also benefit the F-M area.

I discourage people from cherry-picking pieces of data from these studies. Flood flow reductions that result from any potential flood storage projects in the Red River tributaries need to be weighed with the substantial construction costs, extensive farmland requirements, permitting hurdles, years of implementation and local opposition challenges. Flood storage constructed by local sponsors, as proposed in the studies, will supplement primary flood protection provided by projects like the FM Area Diversion or the Grand Forks Flood Protection Project; storage will not eliminate the need for these crucial projects.

I encourage people interested in flood control in the Red River Valley to attend presentations on these studies and plans, and to work with local watershed officials to understand the implications to their communities.