A Step Towards More Comprehensive Basin Water Management

A Fargo-Moorhead area diversion, retention, mitigation, improvements in land use, and water conservation are all needed to achieve more comprehensive water management for the Red River Valley for wet or dry years.

On Monday, the Fargo City Commission unanimously approved a directive to develop a benefit based funding formula for upstream retention that could be a basis for more collaborative analysis and development for more comprehensive water management with our neighbors throughout the Red River Basin.

(Read articles in Forum  Friday & Tuesday

The commission heard compelling testimony supporting upstream water retention improvements from Jon Roeschlein administrator of the Boise de Sioux water shed district, Jerome Deal chairman of the Boise de Sioux district and board member of the Minnesota Red River Watershed Board , Chuck Fritz from the International Water Institute, and Mark Bittner Fargo Director of Engineering.

The approved motion will promote working and sharing information with neighbors across county, state, and national boundaries throughout the Red River Basin to measure benefits of more retention.

This should also enhance our area efforts toward completion of the needed F-M metro area diversion project. I support a 35,000 cubic foot per second diversion that would reduce the river level through the Fargo – Moorhead metro area to a manageable 35’ level to provide protection in a (heaven forbid) 500 year flood event.

Water retention is a vital component in basin water management and adds value for the entire basin. I have been visiting with officials involved in the Boise de Sioux watershed district and have toured their North Ottawa retention project. The North Ottowa project (about 19,000 acre ft) is just completed and working well. They have also acquired 4 of 5 sections for the Red Path retention project and with some help, could have it operational to retain another 16,000 acre foot of water very soon.

These two projects alone could represent 35,000 acre feet of retention. This is a good start to incrementally achieve the projected 400,000 to 600,000 acre feet of upstream retention the Corp estimates is needed to remove negative impact downstream of the diversion during the decade or more it will take to complete the diversion project.

The amendment to include funding for retention I submitted for 2009 1/2 cent sales tax proposal for flood protection was approved unanimously by the Fargo commission and approved by over 90% of the voters. Though it would likely be a small percentage of the total cost of the Red Path project, Fargo could participate in a meaningful way by investing with our upstream neighbors to retain over 16,000 acre feet of water.

It’s important to recognize that these relatively small projects in the Boise de Sioux watershed district upstream and other identified areas on either side of the Red River, are not going to greatly reduce our areas flood levels immediately. However, upstream retention will provide some immediate reduction in flood levels throughout the basin and add value to the diversion project.

Adding retention incrementally as the diversion is being developed will help us achieve our common goal of working with our neighbors for more comprehensive water management in the Red River Basin.