Last fall I published an idea for Minot developed by the team at Ackerman Estvold; it was an engineering solution to open up the river and restore active water flow to the long-abandoned dead loops. The plan also called for the removal of the cofferdams, the permanent structures that cross the river channel and create dangerous spillover areas during high flows and completely block movement on the river at calmer times of the year.
It’s an idea that would completely transform the Souris river and the community. The rock-lined ditch that we’ve grown to both fear and ignore would become an asset for Minot.
The homes near the river facing rising flood insurance rates would see a bump in value as perceptions slowly changed from ‘flood prone’ to ‘waterfront’.
We’d have new places to paddle, fish, maybe even swim. We’d have restored habitat for people, animals, and plants alike. We’d be recapturing a bit of our magical history as a town enhanced by the river rather than our recent past as a town tormented by it.
If it sounds like I’m gushing over this idea then you’ve caught my sentiment, I am. But realizing a free flowing Souris river will not be easy. Politically, it would require initiative and coordination from the Park District and the City. It would add responsibility and require discipline in management from staff. And it would be expensive.
With funding uncertain for Minot’s highest priority — long term flood protection — it seems crazy to even consider what seems like a luxury item. But in reality, right now is the time to strike; right now the iron is hot.
With this week’s announcement of federal funding from the disaster resilience competition, Minot is going to get an injection of activity around the river. The free flowing river was not part of our application, so it seems unlikely we can use that funding, but we could capitalize on the efficiencies of congruent construction projects. If we plan ahead, if we commit to act, if we coordinate flood protection work and resilience spending with restoring the river, significant cost savings could be realized.
And there is state funding available for exactly these types of projects. The Outdoor Heritage fund was established in 2013; here’s the North Dakota law as it describes the intended use of the funding:
- Providing access to private and public lands for sportsmen, including projects that create fish and wildlife habitat and provide access for sportsmen;
- Improving, maintaining, and restoring water quality, soil conditions, plant diversity, animal systems, and by supporting other practices of stewardship to enhance farming and ranching;
- Developing, enhancing, conserving, and restoring wildlife and fish habitat on private and public lands; and
- Conserving natural areas and creating other areas for recreation through the establishment and development of parks and other recreation areas.
Is there a project more perfectly suited to the intent of this funding? I don’t think so. But the application deadline is March 1st. As I said, the time is now.
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