Senator John Hoeven yesterday hosted a meeting of federal, local and state leaders, including Governor Jack Dalrymple, to update the community on efforts to identify and mitigate if necessary existing problem points on the Missouri River that could cause ice jams and lead to flooding this winter.
Hoeven and Dalrymple said last year’s record flooding significantly altered the river channel and left large deposits of sand south of Bismarck-Mandan, posing a risk to communities bordering the river.
Hoeven has been working throughout the spring and summer with former Omaha District Commander Col. Robert Ruch, along with Dalrymple and state officials. The senator has brought experts to the state to identify and mitigate short-term problem areas ahead of this winter, as well as possible longer-term problems. The objective is to be as prepared as possible for this winter and to have long-term solutions in place by March for action next year.
The potential short-term measures are intended to stave off flooding in the short-term this season while a special task force completes its Section 7 study, scheduled to be completed in March. The study will identify long-term measures to control and remove sediment on the Missouri River. Following the meeting, the senator and officials reviewed a potentially troublesome sand bar at the mouth of the Heart River.
“We have the Corps working with the state and other federal agencies to implement a mitigation plan for the Bismarck-Mandan area that will help prevent ice flows and flooding this winter,” Hoeven said. “We will continue to push the Corps to do more to prevent flooding on the Missouri River.”
“We’re disappointed the Corps decided not to assist in a dredging program this fall,“ Dalrymple said. “Therefore, I will recommend that the State Water Commission assist with funding two Missouri River dredging projects in the Bismarck-Mandan area. In addition, the state will work with local officials to purchase and install a gauge to assist with monitoring the Missouri River.”
Hoeven and Dalrymple said the Corps and State Water Commission have worked together to identify several areas of concern that may need to be addressed:
– Flow Management Plan: Large flows in winter could compound problems in the case of an ice jam, so the State Water Commission and Corps have agreed on a flow plan for the fall and winter and pledged to stay in close communication regarding releases and water levels throughout the winter.
– Sand Bar Blocking Flow to Main River Channel for Bismarck Storm Sewer Drain (Drain 1): Bismarck has plans and permits from the Corps and the state will work with the city to dredge a channel through the sandbar this fall.
– Heart River Sandbar: The Corps is initiating a study October 1 to be completed by March 2013. In the meantime, the state plans to work with Morton County and the City of Mandan to identify a dredging program that may reduce the potential for flooding during the upcoming year. In addition, the Corps is recommending close monitoring of ice on the Heart River over winter and using techniques such as scouring, black paper and salt to keep it manageable. The Corps says it can pay or help with this.
– Too Few River Gauges: The SWC says river levels are difficult to measure in South Bismarck during an emergency, so the state will work with Bismarck-Mandan to purchase and install gauges at key points on the river.
– Sand Bar Deposits on River Bends Create Potential Snags for Ice During Spring Melt: The Corps believes the channel capacity is currently good based on fact that they are currently releasing 24,500 cubic feet per second and the river is managing it well. Longer-term solutions such as bank stabilization projects, jetties, and other measures to shape the river channel will be identified by the Section 7 study.
– Improved Communications: The state, city and Corps will maintain regular contact to monitor water levels and releases throughout winter. The SWC will develop a communication plan with emergency contact numbers for the Water Commission, Corps and city officials.
In addition to Governor Dalrymple, also attending the meeting were the Army Corps of Engineers’ new Omaha District Commander Col. Joel Cross, State Water Commissioner Todd Sando, Bismarck City Manager Bill Wocken, Bismarck Public Works Director Jeff Heintz, Burleigh County Commissioner Brian Bittner, Burleigh County Emergency Manager Mary Senger, Mandan Mayor Arlyn Van Beek, Mandan City Administrator Jim Neubauer, Morton County Commissioner Bruce Strinden and Morton County Emergency Manager Lapp Harris.
Press Release, September 6, 2012