The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division Commander Maj. Gen. Michael Wehr and St. Paul District Commander Col. Dan Koprowski visited the cities of Minot and Devils Lake, North Dakota, July 6-8, to meet with members of Congress, state and local officials and to see Corps projects in the region.
The trip was broken into two parts. July 6, involved a public meeting in the Minot City Council chambers where the commanding general was briefed on the proposed Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection project along with desire and importance for the Souris River Basin to be selected as a Corps feasibility study new start. Also present at the briefing were Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, Rep. Kevin Cramer, Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, Minot Mayor Chuck Barney, Ward County officials and Souris River Joint Board members.
Maj. Gen. Wehr stressed that competition is heavy for federal dollars and how they should be spent. “If we can show a community that is willing to make hard decisions, willing to improve where it can, and then just needs that federal assistance, I believe that's what we're after."
Following the briefing, Maj. Gen. Wehr went on a bus tour of the area with stakeholders, with the intent to gain a better understanding of the 2011 flood event and the magnitude of the Souris River Joint Board’s proposed flood risk management project. The tour also gave the commander a more comprehensive view of a proposed Souris River basin feasibility study to reduce flooding.
The next stop on his trip of North Dakota projects was to Devils Lake, where Maj. Gen. Wehr received a tour of the basin to gain a better understanding of challenges the communities face.
Devils Lake at its current elevation has no natural outlet. In 1993, according to the North Dakota State Water Commission, the lake was at its lowest recorded levels at 1,422.62 feet. At its peak, in June 2011, the lake hit an elevation of 1,454.3 feet, rising approximately 32 feet and covering an additional 261 square miles of land.
“To mitigate that danger and risk is the most important thing. I think you've achieved that in Devils Lake,” Maj. Gen. Wehr stated. “This a great opportunity to see the success of the collaboration with the state, federal, and local levels.”
Capping off the trip was the Devils Lake Executive Committee meeting, a committee the general co-chairs with North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple. The committee meets face-to-face once a year, until now. The group passed a motion changing the meetings to as-needed, an indication of the progress that has been made protecting the communities in the basin.