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Minot now in planning stages for possible diversion channel to avert floods

MINOT, N.D.—A diversion channel tying into a levee with a recreation trail appears to be the best plan for flood protection in west Minot, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps held a public meeting in Minot Thursday to outline its rationale and take comments. The meeting is part of a $3 million feasibility study being conducted by the Corps on the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project to determine whether there is value in the federal government participating financially in the project.

The Corps hopes to hold a public review of a completed feasibility report in the fall of 2018 and submit the report to Congress in the spring of 2019.

The Corps' analysis for west Minot showed the best economic return for the federal government would be a plan that includes the proposed Maple Diversion. Federal interest also might exist in two other levees.

The Maple Diversion, a bypass structure to take water during times of high river flow, would be flanked by a levee on the north side. Two large gates would close when river flow exceeds 3,000 cfs, redirecting water into the diversion channel.

The economics of the approximate $71.5 million project came to around $1.46 of benefit for every $1 of cost.

"That's a pretty good investment," said Kevin Bluhm, chief of riverine economics at the Corps in St. Paul. "Is it the best investment in the world? Maybe not. There might be other needs in the nation that stack up higher and that's always the competing interest side of things."

Nathan Wallerstedt, Corps chief of project management, outlined the criteria looked at so far in determining the benefits of the project. Reduction of flood risk is an obvious benefit, but there also are benefits to the ecosystem, recreation, public safety and community resilience.

Wallerstedt said it is reasonable to assume flood control would exist if the Corps did nothing because Minot and the Souris River Joint Board were moving forward with construction. However, full funding is not guaranteed, so that played into assumptions, he said.

The Corps considered other alternatives for flood protection, ruling them out as not economically justified in most cases.

The public review period on the "tentatively selected plan" will end Nov. 30.