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Flood concerns to be heard at Red River Basin conference

The Changing Face of Flooding is the theme of the 27th Annual Red River Basin Land and Water International Summit Conference on Tuesday through Thursday at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

The Changing Face of Flooding is the theme of the 27th Annual Red River Basin Land and Water International Summit Conference on Tuesday through Thursday at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

The public is invited from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesday for a discussion designed to help leaders in the Red River Basin craft comprehensive, long-term recommendations to address flooding.

"We invite the public to pull up a chair and dialogue with state, federal and local leaders working on long-term flood solutions," said Lance Yohe, Red River Basin Commission executive director.

Among Wednesday's public discussion topics and issues are:

n Is there enough flood protection or flood risk reduction in the Red River Basin?

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- What principles should be applied in approaching flood protection policies?

- What goals should be established?

- Should people in the Red River Basin strive to reduce river flows to mitigate flooding threats? If so, by how much?

- Does the Red River Basin need an authority to work on flood and water issues that can cross political boundaries?

Among Tuesday's conference highlights will be a 2010 Spring Flood Outlook, by Mike Lukes of the National Weather Service in Grand Forks and a comparison of the spring floods of 1997 and 2009, by WDAZ-WDAY meteorologist John Wheeler.

Wednesday morning's events include: a look back at the 2009 flood and a discussion of jurisdictional flood mitigation issues.

Thursday morning will feature a panel discussion, Building Capacity for Multipurpose Land and Water Investment -- Basin Partnership, by Vivek Voora of the International Institute of Sustainable Development in Winnipeg, and Henry Van Offelen, Minnesota Center for Environment Advocacy.

The IISD released a report last week that calls for a sharper focus on integrated water and land management in Manitoba, which has implications in North Dakota and Minnesota.

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"It is critical that water and land issues are managed together," said report author and WIC director, Henry David (Hank) Venema. "By integrating water and land management, we can greatly improve the conservation of water resources and improve the management and health of Lake Winnipeg at the same time."

Key elements of this innovation agenda include governance reform at the water-land interface, repurposing existing resources and designing new economic instruments to support watershed management -- including ecological goods and services programs in the agricultural sector.

Other events

In connection with the conference, the International Red River Board will hold its bi-annual meeting Thursday and Friday at the Canad Inn.

Sessions will be from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday and beginning at 11:30 a.m. Friday.

Items for discussion include:

- The Browns Valley, Minn., flood project and its effects on inter-basin flows.

- Devils Lake issues and developments.

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- The "River Watch" water quality monitoring program.

- Current trans-boundary water resource issues and activities.

The International Red River Board is an independent bi-national group established by the International Joint Commission, or IJC, under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.

The Board assists the Commission in preventing or resolving transboundary disputes regarding the waters and aquatic ecosystem of the Red River and its tributaries and aquifers shared by Canada and the U.S.

This is accomplished by providing a forum for the identification and resolution of existing and emerging trans-boundary water-related issues and by recommending appropriate strategies concerning water quality, quantity and ecosystem health objectives.

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send e-mail to kbonham@gfherald.com .

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