We've heard the same general story from a host of officials since the Souris River roared from its banks in the summer of 2011, including officials at the local, state and federal levels.
The story was that everything possible was done to protect Minot, Burlington and other cities from flooding, and despite raising the levels of existing levee systems ahead of the flood and eventually releasing more water from Lake Darling Dam, the flood essentially was inevitable once massive storms dumped several inches of rain on locations in northwest North Dakota and parts of Canada.
But then this week, Col. Michael Price of the U.S.?Army Corps of Engineers told city and state officials that a study showed that raising the level of Lake Darling Dam and increasing the 5,000 cubic feet per second target flow for the river to 10,000 cfs could have made a dramatic difference in the flood of 2011. The International Souris River Board will join with the Corps to pursue new management rules to improve flood protection for cities along the Souris River.
We realize those comments are looking back in hindsight, but it's also not something we've heard many, if any, officials say publicly. Price or other officials aren't necessarily saying the 2011 flood could have been entirely prevented, but it still represents a position shift from what we've heard for the past year.
The latest discussion also raises several issues going forward. If such flood protection measures can be achieved, would Minot need to build a massive $820 million flood control project through the heart of town, or could the project be scaled back considerably, to perhaps to a protection level of 10,000 cfs? Would a smaller project still require the same sized footprint? Would diversion channels still be necessary parts of a smaller protection plan? What would be the cost of a smaller project?
And the process continues.