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Officials seek public input for flood protection plan in the Red River Basin

Flood-weary residents in the Red River Valley should have a say in determining a long-term solution, officials said Thursday. The Red River Basin Commission plans to send out surveys at the end of the month to watershed districts, communities and...

Flood-weary residents in the Red River Valley should have a say in determining a long-term solution, officials said Thursday.

The Red River Basin Commission plans to send out surveys at the end of the month to watershed districts, communities and citizens asking what their main problems are and any solutions they have to both spring and summer flooding. The commission then hopes to form a consensus for a 10-year strategy to determine levels of protection and tributary flow reductions.

"The surveys will jump-start what people are thinking about," Lance Yohe, RRBC executive director, told about 50 commission members and people Thursday at the commission's meeting in Grand Forks. "We'll use the feedback to set goals and tweak as we go."

The commission also plans about a dozen public meetings in North Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba. Yohe said he hopes there will be enough input for the commission to start laying the groundwork for a long-term plan at upcoming monthly meetings in Moorhead and again in Grand Forks.

Some commission members questioned the deadline, saying small-town councils may be overwhelmed by the information requested in the surveys.

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"It could take months to organize meetings to reach a consensus," said commissioner Kevin Burg of Hillsboro, N.D.

"We can't use one survey to fit all areas," said commissioner Betty Pikop of Stephen, Minn. "We need to enclose a cover letter telling cities to send the survey to people who know what and where the problems are."

The Minnesota and North Dakota legislatures each provided $500,000 toward a long-term solutions report. Yohe said it's important to relay some means of a plan to the Minnesota Legislature before it convenes to formulate a new bonding bill. Jake Gust, an at-large member from West Fargo, N.D., agreed.

"The survey's not going to be perfect and some questions will come back unanswered," Gust said. "A million dollars is only going to last so long. We've got to get something of value for that money."

Gust said he hopes a strategy is in place in time for the commission's annual international summit conference, set for Jan. 19-21 in the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

The Red River Basin Commission is an organization uniting local, state and provincial government representatives with environmental officials to address water management and flood protection issues in the Red River Basin.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 262; or send e-mail to jjohnson2@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: 2009 FLOOD
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