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Published March 24, 2014, 09:45 AM

Weigh in on Red River diversion

With spring just around the corner, once again there is concern about flooding in the Red River Basin. What can we do to reduce flood damage?

By: John Finney and Gary Thompson, Agweek

With spring just around the corner, once again there is concern about flooding in the Red River Basin. What can we do to reduce flood damage? Upstream water retention projects are one component of the overall strategy to provide flood protection for everyone in the basin.

Upstream retention not only reduces flooding on the Red River, but also provides local benefits, including improved drainage, less damage to the local infrastructure and natural resource enhancement.

Water managers on both sides of the Red River have been using a variety of technological tools to help locate, design and build retention projects. New hydraulics and hydrologic models, combined with imagery and mapping initiatives such as LIDAR help water managers make educated decisions to make the best use of limited dollars and land availability.

In accordance with the 2014 farm bill, plans are to apply for the Red River Basin to be designated as one of eight critical conservation areas eligible for federal assistance to develop and construct retention projects. These new funds, leveraged with state, regional and local monies will certainly accelerate the ability to move forward with projects now and in the near future.

The joint water management groups in both states have adopted a goal of 20 percent peak flood flow reduction at the Canadian border. Farm bill funding will help us reach that goal.

But, retention projects do not magically appear on the landscape. Each and every one of them requires input from local landowners, farmers, water managers, township and county officials, city councils and conservationists. We all need to work together to find the best solution.

We have to find the land where we can construct retention projects. Public land might be available in some cases, but most will have to come from the private sector.

The Red River Retention Authority invites the public to take a tour of an established impoundment area and talk with people affected by its construction.

The goal of local water managers is to reduce the damage caused by flooding in the Red River Basin. All of the water management organizations in the two states are grassroots, bottom-up type of organizations. Do not hesitate to contact your local water management boards with any suggestions or comments.

Editor’s note: Finney and Thompson are co-chairs of the Red River Retention Authority.

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