While the City of Minot has charted its course for flood protection, many residents in the rural areas along the Souris River still are waiting to learn what a future flood protection project might look like.
Barr Engineering, the firm hired by the North Dakota State Water Commission to design a flood protection plan, is tasked to prepare an analysis of alternatives for the rural area by May 1. Engineers held a meeting in Velva Wednesday to let people know how the analysis is coming.
"It was a discussion to get folks up to speed and let them know what alternatives we are looking at," said Scott Sobiech, senior water resources engineer with Barr Engineering. The purpose also was to find out if the public feels the work is on the mark or needs to look at new options.
A house upstream from Burlington is sandbagged and surrounded by water in April 2011. Engineers are analyzing permanent ring dikes as an alternative to protect homes in rural areas.
"The consensus was we seem to have most of the pieces covered," Sobiech said.
The analysis is looking at three primary issues related to the alternatives: effectiveness, impact on key resources and relative cost in comparison to other alternatives.
"As we move through the process, we may identify one of the alternatives, or a couple, that there's no feasible way to get this constructed or it's way too expensive or we don't have a lot of demand for that alternative," Sobiech said.
The report to the water commission will narrow the options and highlight the more feasible alternatives. The alternatives being reviewed are:
-Discharging more water from Lake Darling early in the year.
-Increasing the target flow through Minot from 5,000 cubic feet per second to 8,000 to 15,000 cfs.
-Ring dikes around farmsteads, businesses and homes in the rural areas.
-A diversion of river water in excess of 5,000 cfs through a channel to be built from Sherwood to Westhope.
-Modifications at J. Clark Salyer Refuge to improve conveyance of water through that area.
-Nonstructural or structural increase in water storage at Lake Darling.
-Improved channelization downstream from Velva.
-Flood water storage on tributaries to the Souris River.
The review also will cover ways to remove trapped floodwater from property after a flood recedes.
What the analysis isn't doing is considering levees or flood walls through the rural area because of the enormous cost. Engineers haven't yet determined how many ring dikes would be needed to protect structures, but Sobiech roughly estimated the number at 50 to 100. The State of North Dakota has an existing funding program to assist with the construction of ring dikes.
Some of the options would affect Minot's flood protection as well as the larger rural area. Items such as the Sherwood-to-Westhope diversion or structural improvements at Lake Darling remain in consideration, although the flood plan approved by the Minot City Council protects to a level that wouldn't require the upstream changes.
Sobiech said the analysis will leave the final decision making to the local residents. He explained that no one option is likely to work best for every stretch of property along the river. The ideal solution for one area might not work as well for another area.
"There's a lot of competing and different types of concerns along the rural area," he said. "It's going to come down to which alternative the stakeholders want to move forward with and the availability of funds."
The $820 million cost placed on the project last year included just the portion from Burlington to Velva and Mouse River Park. Additional work in the rural area would be at additional cost.
Anyone wishing to submit comments regarding the rural reaches analysis should click the public input tab on the home page of the project website at (mouseriverplan.com).