Governor Jack Dalrymple and Senator John Hoeven advanced the need for greater flood protection in the Souris River Basin during a meeting today with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall in Regina.
Hoeven and Dalrymple have continued on-going talks with Wall and other Canadian officials to gain operational changes at three Canadian dams for greater short-term and long-term flood protection in the Souris River Basin.
Saskatchewan officials said they have lowered the Rafferty and Alameda reservoirs in preparation for spring runoff and will lower the reservoirs further if snow accumulations make it necessary.
Dalrymple and Hoeven said Friday's meeting was productive and that officials from both sides of the international border have made significant progress to reduce this year's risk of flooding and to improve the basin's long-term flood control management.
"We need to develop a long-term flood protection strategy in the Souris River Basin that goes beyond what is spelled out in the 1989 Canada-United States water agreement," Dalrymple said. "Saskatchewan officials have assured us they will respond aggressively in the management of their dams during spring runoff and we will continue to work with Canada to improve the basin's long-term flood protection."
"Our biggest concern as spring approaches is to make sure all parties involved in use and management of the Souris River are coordinating closely to ensure there is ample storage in the reservoirs for both spring melt and summer rains," said Hoeven. "That process is well underway, and so far Mother Nature is cooperating as well. We are also working closely with Premier Wall, his technical experts and the U.S. and Canadian governments to address changes in the International Agreement that are needed to improve flood management long term."
Saskatchewan officials said they successfully managed their reservoirs last year to prevent major downstream flooding from snowmelt runoff, but record rainfall in June created runoff beyond the storage capacity of Saskatchewan's reservoirs.
Dalrymple and the state's Congressional Delegation also have asked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to pursue revisions to a 1989 Canada-U.S. water agreement which defines objectives associated with international water supply and flood control practices in the Souris River Basin.
Hoeven and Dalrymple said the international agreement should be revised to reflect the need for greater short- and long-term flood control. Additionally, the International Souris River Board is commissioning a review of the 1989 agreement and will develop alternative management options that could improve the basin's flood protection. Currently, the agreement includes measures to protect against flooding from snowmelt, but does not address operations to protect against flooding as a result of summer rainfall events. Both Saskatchewan and North Dakota leaders agree this needs to be addressed. Dalrymple said possible changes to the international agreement will be discussed again during a meeting of the International Souris River Board February 22 in Bismarck.
Saskatchewan officials have identified potential dam safety issues at both Rafferty and Alameda dams as a result of last spring's extreme flood event and Wall said they are working to address those issues. An interim report, which will detail the dams' potential safety issues and operational plans, is expected to be completed within the next month.
Wall said engineering firms are working to develop an improvement plan for the Alameda Dam and their studies should be complete next year. Engineers are also studying options to improve spillway capacity at Rafferty Dam. Until dam improvements can be completed, the Rafferty and Alameda reservoirs will be maintained to ensure the dams' safe operations.
During Friday's meeting, Hoeven and Dalrymple requested that a North Dakota liaison be appointed to monitor improvements to the Rafferty and Alameda dams.