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Scoot

Over the past few weeks I've been busting my butt in Ada fighting flood water. Recenlty, there was a meeting to discuss how to deal with the problem. The key, so say the experts, is to place dams near Twin
Valley to slow the flow of water down the edge of the Valley from Twin Valley to Ada (there's a heck of a drop between the two towns and the water comes fast!)
However, the DNR put the kibosh on that plan because this would impede the migration of the river sturgeon. When asked specifically what was more important- the millions of dollars in farm land and the lives of people that are destroyed with each flood or the river sturgeon- the answer was clear... the fish.
I have to run, but there's lots of very PO'd people regarding this topic in Ada- me included.
Scoot

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<Rant mode on>
'Course, it's lots easier to blame a lack of dams than to blame all the drainage and clearing that's been happening over the last fifty years. There WAS a dam at Twin Valley; it's gone now. Flood washed it out. There are lots of dams in Fargo and Grand Forks, all installed with your tax dollars in the name of "flood control". Didn't do them any good in 97. Fifty years ago, there were small wetlands and potholes all over that part of the country. When the water got high, they were all full. Gradually, that water would evaporate or recharge the aquifers. Those swamps and potholes served exactly the same purpose that people would like to pretend a dam does- slowing down the runoff. Look around the Red River Valley now. Every low spot has been drained. Almost all the woods and prairies are gone. The water is still there, but the only place it can go is into the river. There is literally nothing to slow down runoff; in fact, everything that can be done to speed it up has been done. Would there have been a flood if there had still been wetlands and woods around? Maybe. I'll bet it would have been much less severe, though. Also, all that wetland and woods that was flooded would not have sugarbeets on it, so there would be no significant economic impact.
On a related note, do you know what they call the flat area on both sides of a river? The FLOODPLAIN. You know why? BECAUSE IT FLOODS!! Therefore, it's a really stupid place to build a house, doncha think? Flood insurance maps are available to anyone at the county courthouse, and will show you exactly where the floodplain is. It's not a secret. The only excuse for building a house in a floodplain is sheer ignorance.
Now, Scoot, don't get the idea that I'm busting on you, because I have no intention of doing that. I've put in my time fighting floodwaters. I grew up in that area, and I am a hydrologist by profession, so watching these morons build their multi-bazillion dollar homes overlooking the Red River, drain every damp spot they can find, plow under everything that isn't a sugarbeet, and then whine and cry about flooding really pushes my buttons. I've been listening to it for over forty years, and every year the dozers are busy pushing down more trees and keeping the drainage ditches clear. They're about out of forest to doze now, so they're dozing down windbreaks and shelterbelts. I'm sure you've seen all the topsoil in the road ditches after floods. Even the Valley doesn't have an inexhaustible supply of topsoil. It DOES seem to have an inexhaustible supply of clueless pigeons who will buy "scenic riverfront lots" and bleat for more dams and dikes to try to protect themselves from the catastrophes they have caused. Don't suggest that they may have contributed to the problem; that will get you labeled as an "environmentalist whacko". They all "know" that it's the DNR's fault, and the Corps of Engineers', for not building more dikes and dams. OK, rant mode off.

[This message has been edited by scubohuntr (edited 07-02-2002).]

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Scoot

Clearly you are "busting me" on this- you're just trying to be polite about it and say you're not!
I agree with much of what you have to say, BUT, I haven't been fight a flood 15, 50, or 500 yards away from the river. Most of the work I've been doing has been more than a mile from the river and many people who were in need of help were a lot farther away than that.
Also, my mother-in-law's place was built where it was for the specific pupose of not having water problems. However, the highway near her home was soon built (and re-built higher) and now it holds back huge amounts of water so that she has flooding problems. Your suggestion that she's an idiot for living there seems pretty weak given that it was a great place to build before the county dramatically changed the drainage. I don't think you can blame her for not being clarivoint (spellng?).
If I understand you, your answer to this issue is to say that the people who live in areas that get water are idiots and they deserve to get wet. Also, their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers are idiots for farming where they did so piss on them too??? This seems to be your sentiment.
If the dams were so incredibly ineffective, why is it that there wasn't a flood in the area from 1969 to 1997 and now that there's no dam there there's been three of them in the past few years (two in the past few weeks)?
Having said all of this, I have to admit that you are probably in large part correct. However, there clearly is a problem and it needs some sort of fix. What would you suggest? The Corp suggests a small system of dams near Twin Valley, do you believe they are wrong? Personally, I don't have a clue if they are right or wrong, but I do know that the DNR is not concerned one bit if the dams will work or not- their concern is the river sturgeon. I believe that this is a great example of mixed up priorities. I love fishing as much as anyone I know and I think they have screwed-up priorities. When the needs of people come second to those of animals, you start to be lumped in with groups like PETA- not a good group to be lumped into in my book.
Scoot

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I apologize in advance, this one's gonna be long. If I cut things short, they come off not saying what I meant. Skip over this if you don't want to read a long one.
Scoot- I was afraid it would come off as an attack on you, which is why I seriously considered not posting it at all. I didn't mean it to sound that way. The thing I have problems with is the whole "gotta fix the river- it's flooding" mindset that people have around there. Many of them are my relatives, and many more are good friends, so it's not a personal thing with them either.

I think it's safe to assume the Corps is wrong by default unless irrefutably proven otherwise. I could count the number of times they've been right on one hand and still have fingers left over. Their idea of solving flooding problems is to dike up the riverbanks, riprap everything in sight, dredge out any shallow spots or constrictions, and put in dams every few miles. You're left with something that looks like an open storm drain. It's also a never-ending maintenance nightmare, which provides job security for the Corps.

Let's start out with the old homesteads around the rivers. Most of them don't have a problem with flooding. I know a lot of people who live near rivers and have to deal with floods on a regular basis. The water comes up, sometimes it cuts off the roads for a few days, but the house and important buildings, thanks to careful planning (and not building in the same spot where great-grandpa Lars got flooded out), stay dry. The water goes down, and nothing's the worse for the wear. The crops take a beating, but that's farming. Now bring in some clueless bureaucrat who wants to help (i. e. wants to bring in some pork-barrel money to his district). The roads are underwater- gotta stop that. Build up the roads. Now they'll always be above water. Never mind what it does to natural water flows. This poor person couldn't get out on election day- gotta make the floods go down quicker. Channelize the river. The crops died- gotta drain the fields so they don't stay wet. The homes of the wealthiest people in the area ("Riverview Estates" or some such) are threatened by flooding- gotta protect "economic development" (the magic words for pork barrel projects). Riprap the streambank. Higher dikes. Diversion channels.

Everyone is trying to solve one little problem, and not looking at the big picture. All their "solutions" make the problem just a little worse. The folks that drained all the wetlands thought they had found a solution that would let them farm the Red River Valley more efficiently. Once that problem was solved, they moved on to something else. When flooding began to be a problem, people looked at it as an entirely separate issue. Their solutions didn't look at cause, only effect. Any effective solution to the flooding problem needs to look at a hundred years or so of mismanagement in addition to the current problem. Throughout the watershed, people have been working for generations to get water off their land as fast as possible. Off their land means into the river. Now you have a river carrying far more runoff than it should. This leads to erosion of banks, flooding, damage to dams and bridges, and greatly increased flood peaks downstream.

If you put in a dam, the intent is to hold back floodwater. Where will it go? You need to flood more land to hold back the water. Homes that were perfectly alright before are now prone to flooding, through no fault of their own. These are not the people I have trouble with. They did nothing wrong, and now they have to pay for the stupidity of the Corps and the greed of tax-and-spend congressvermin.

The people I have a problem with (besides the Corps and Congress) are the ones who build their exclusive neighborhoods in that nice, flat, sheltered area next to the river, and then expect you and me to pay for dikes and disaster relief and help carry sandbags when they get flooded out. Then they rebuild in the same place.

No doubt, the farmers and developers who drained the wetlands and cleared the forests should have a heavy share of the blame. A sixty acre swamp that is holding an extra foot of water means a LOT less flowing through Twin Valley or Ada. There are hardly any sixty acre swamps left. That extra foot of water, plus the water that would normally be in the swamp, is now in the river. No-till farming, or at least not fall plowing, would mean a lot less topsoil choking ditches and filling reservoirs, which would mean less water outside the banks, but everything gets plowed up good and black every fall. These issues should be addressed as part of a solution.

New development in floodplain areas should not be allowed. Anyone who builds a new home in a floodplain DOES deserve to be flooded. That's a bit harsh, I know. Maybe the person didn't know it was a floodplain. His ignorance is costing you and me a lot of money, especially when ten minutes of research would have shown him what he was buying. I went and looked at the flood insurance maps when I bought my house. The zoning board that issued this doorknob a building permit should be forced to tote sandbags when his house floods.

I feel genuinely bad about people who are flooded because the fatcat farmer upstream drained off all his wetlands, cleared every tree and blade of grass off his three thousand acres, and built a dike around his ten acre plantation - er, I mean, farmstead. I've spent a lot of hours and lugged countless sandbags helping those people, too. I have no problem with them, and certainly not with you, Scoot. I just don't want to see the problem "fixed" by one of the Corps' famous bandaid fixes that makes things much worse down the road. The sturgeon were there for thousands of years. People have been there for a hundred and fifty or so. They've lived together quite well in the past, and can continue to do so. If everyone got along with the dam in Twin Valley before, a new one shouldn't hurt anything. Just make sure it's the right solution and addresses the cause of the problem.

[This message has been edited by scubohuntr (edited 07-02-2002).]

[This message has been edited by scubohuntr (edited 07-02-2002).]

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Well i id have to agree with scubohntr on many of the issues he points out, but this is how I feel, sorry if it gets too long.
Alot of people dont realize how we have created our own problem over the years by trying to do what they thought would fix the problem. For many years we have had average rainfalls and also we had many droughts and near-drought times. Since 1995 our precip on average has been non-typical, 7 inches in 4 hours here, 10 inches in 12 hours there, 4 inches in less than an hour. these events have taxed our drainage systems to the max. This is not to say it wont ever happen again because it will someday, and nature will defeat us again.
When its dry everyone knows we need dams to hold back water in resivoirs to supply our needs, i direct effect this also hurts us in the wet times not allowing the water to flow the way nature intended for it to flow.
when we have flooding we biuld dikes to hold the river in its banks. Now the volume of water multiplied by the velocity due to increased potential ( due to the dikes of course ) causes a whole new problem. In late June 2000 the flooding we had in fargo was a direct cause of our dikes trying to hold the river in its banks. what dosent let in also dosent let out, the water should have drained at a much higher rate but do to the modifications we have done over decades of time now came back and bit us. Personally I don't know of any watershed districts that can handle 10 inches in such a short time. Plus one must realize that if it rains say 10" in Mahnomen and 7" in twin valley and 5 in Ada and also the "drain" for this area flows westward from Mahnomen to the red river. Now the storm progresses eastward doing the damage, the area affected is already waterlogged and the excessive water will cause damage, its a pretty basic scenerio but there isnt much one can do to fix it, the water will come eventually and we know what happens then.
In California they get a 10" rain like that some areas have mudslides and houses shift off there foundation sliding down the hill. In florida up to North Carolina they have to deal with the devastating effects of the hurricanes. Through the midwest we deal with tornadoes and up here in the northern end we have some of the harshest winters known. People built on the river because it was the form of transportation then, but all of us must realize that this benifit of being so close to water also carries its own set of concequences. We may be able to win a "war" or two but in the end mother nature will always win.
Sometimes I think maybe we should have left stuff alone, cause now we are paying the price. Our swamps, wetlands and forests serve a much greater purpose than people realize. God meant for that land to be that way. Unfortunately I can't turn back time but maybe we can explore our options from what we have learned the last ten years, to make improvements for the next ten to come.
Sorry if I may have offended anyone, my intentions were not to do so.
Shawn

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Scoot

I think I agree with most of what you two have had to say. However, it seems like all three of us are guilty of one thing- we're all bitching about what has been done (yes, I know- I started it) but none of us seem to have any sort of solution. I agree that the Corps seems to make many bad and slow decisions, but given my lack of knowledge and understanding about the topic I'm forced to listen and believe (at least skeptically). Who the heck am I to question the experts? I know I don't have a better solution or idea of a "fix". Also, how am I supposed to be sure the solution is the right one when I'm not the expert. I'm not stupid, if fact I'm a year short of my Ph.D., but what do I know about this topic? The answer- not much.
What are the "cure all" measures that need to be taken to "fix" the problem? I understand you believe that bad decision making is largely to blame for the current situations- but what can be done given the current situation?
We've drifted some from my original problem, which had to do with screwed up priorities by the DNR, but that's ok. It's interesting discussion.
Scoot

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Dams I do not think would have helped much with this flood event? At least not with the way the runoff is now capable of flashing over the basin.

Many changes need to be made in farming and landscaping of urban environments before such events will be halted or evan lessened.

Taller dykes and more dams are cyclical fix's overall, not a remedy.

If you dig deep at the root of this problem I think you would find the nations farm policy a bigger contributing issue to the flooding problem, far more contributing then DNR’s policy?

IMHO.

?
------------------
Backwater Eddy..><,sUMo,>

Backwater Guiding
"Ed on the RED"
(701)-281-2300

[email protected]

http://home.talkcity.com/ResortRd/backwtr1/index.html

[This message has been edited by Backwater Eddy (edited 07-03-2002).]

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I had you figured for a pretty bright guy, Scoot; otherwise I wouldn't have bothered getting into this discussion. What field is your PhD in? Myself, I ran out of money just shy of a Geology MS. Got close enough to get a job, though.

Just a couple of things-

1. NEVER assume that the Corps are the "experts". Their priorities are not our priorities (at least, not mine- and I assume anyone posting to a fishing forum would take exception to most of what they do). They are throwbacks to the 1930's "reclaim the wasteland" mentality that spawned Las Vegas and the Imperial Valley. A natural system, to them, is a system out of control. They far prefer a ditch to a river. It's easier to control.

2. I don't have an answer. There may not BE an answer for an event like the 1997 RRV flood, or the recent floods on the Marsh and Wild Rice rivers. They are exceptional events, and preparing for them is like living underground to avoid getting hit by a meteorite. The prevention costs more than the damage, and may not work anyway. Maybe a step in the right direction would be to start restoring wetlands. I know, that kind of talk will get you shot up there, but some of the drained swamps never have produced a crop to speak of, so they're not doing any good as they are. Just don't let the US Fish and Wildlife Circus within fifty miles of the whole project.

3. Once an area floods, the reflex reaction is to "make sure it never happens again". Usually this means dikes, diversions, or building up roads. That usually means the problem is worse somewhere else. Maybe what we need to do is set aside some of the money we use for worthless flood control projects and use it to rebuild after really unpredictable events damage homes and structures that weren't put in the wrong place.

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Scoot

Bright guy? Hell, I ran out of money before I got my bachelors degree! I'm "so smart" I continue to go to school by going deeper and deeper in debt. I also chose so "wisely" that my degree is in experimental psychology-not exactly the breeding grounds of millionaires. Oh-well, I enjoy what I do.

Probably you're both correct on this topic and the "fixes" are just "quick fixes". I do know that if there isn't some sort of quick fix around a few spots near my mother in law's place there will be water all over heck- at the latest in the spring.

Scubo, I figured you'd say something like you did about the Corps. Trusting them as experts is probably akin to trusting your typical politician and believe that he/she is an expert (at anything). However, maybe part of the reason why they are looked so poorly upon is because they're asked to "fix" these losing battles. You, yourself, said that you don't have a good answer to the problem. I certainly don't and I don't know who does. Maybe there is no great answer (that the residents will consider acceptable) and the Corps gets dinged everytime they try deal with these lose/lose situations. However, maybe they're a bunch of idiots who don't know what the heck they're doing!
Sounds like a consensus that it's a tough situation that's been caused by a large number of different things/decisions.
Scoot

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well I may not have a degree ar anything like that, all i know is that me and my wife each work 40+ hours each every week just to make it and yep i drive a rusted 2wheel drive 79 gmc. It's so sad to see that the ones with the money (those who probably contribute to politicians compaigns) are the ones that are first to go off on theese issues and get action. Our society has become so driven by the dollar it's not even funny.
No longer does majority rule, the rich rule because all of the "favors" that our lovely elected officials pull for them. I know a guy who is a government engineer down in texas and he told me of once he told his superior a plan wouldnt be in the best interest of the people because it wouldnt perform as needed, but this diversion would only protect a wealthy development on a golf course. The project still went through because one of the senators and the governor of that state pushed to have it done anyways.
There again the rich get thier instant gratification where the rest get screwed.
Sad to say but it happens, you know why all of the politicians up here push all of theese subsidzed crops and farm-reform projects? Because they know that the farmers get out and vote, and most of theese farmers you see whining are the ones driving brand new vehicles and have a 6 bedroom house and so on and so forth. I'm sorry to say I also do not know of a true fix to take care of theese problems, maybe there really isnt a fix, we should just plan for the future knowing it can happen again.
Well this topic has gotten me frustrated to the point that I probably wont be making any sense (If not already) so I better quit.
Maybe someday the peoples voices will be heard, and not just those with money.
Im out.
Shawn

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I live at the upper end of the red river valley where suger beets rule and every farmer has a laser ditcher and hates trees and shelter belts. I cant believe the number of track hoes ever summer that clean the same ditches over and over from all the blow dirt. I dont have anything against farmers but come on they take out all the trees and then complain when they have to clean ditches. we have been in a wet cycle for how many years and the slews i hunt in mn. and n.d around here get smaller and smaller. i fully agree that restoring wetlands and less ditiching would help but so much has changed i dont believe that is the totla answer. in n.d. where i live water is supposed to run north and east to the red river. but some farmers have water running south so it doesnt cross there land i think these people need to be regulated as to what they can do with there water. there is a glacel lake in mn. where i hunt ducks and the farmers keep digging the ditches deeper and deeper i thought there were regulations against this. I could go on and on but i will quit for now thanks

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Admittedly, the Corps gets pulled in on some tough situations after they've already been "fixed" by someone even more clueless. Also, a lot of their incompetence (nearly all of it, in fact) comes from the top. There are very good engineers working for the Corps, and many of them know just how useless the projects they are installing really are. However, when the head of the Senate Appropriations Committee wants dikes and dams, the upper echelons of the Corps develop a sudden interest in installing dikes and dams. The commanding officers of the Corps are real good at brown-nosing senators.

I live near the upper end of Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The Corps is in charge of managing the water levels in all the reserviors on the Missouri River. Right now, the water is fifteen to eighteen feet below normal. The fishing that this area is (was) famous for just doesn't exist anymore. Why? So six barges that work on the lower Missouri aren't inconvenienced. SIX BARGES! Now, I'm sure the barges are owned by a huge corporation, and huge corporations get attention in Congress. Mom and Pop bait shops, restaurants, and motels don't. The cargo that is being carried by those barges could be carried by train or by truck if the water got too low. Profits might go down a bit, or prices up a bit, but life would go on. There is no "plan B" for the folks who depend on fishermen and pleasure boaters. When the dams were put in, one of the primary intents was recreation. When it comes right down to it, the money talks. Economics and science don't count. The water levels would be lower anyway, since snowmelt and precipitation have been nearly nonexistent, but they wouldn't have to be as low as they are. Gross mismanagement, driven by purely political motivations. Unfortunately typical for a Corps project.

In the case of your mother-in-law, that's one of those tragic situations brought about by somebody "fixing" a problem without having the slightest thought to long-term consequences of the "fix" or the cause of the problem. It usually involves flooding somebody (coincidentally, it's usually rural, lower-to-middle income people who come up with the short end of the stick) in order to protect somebody else. When people with enough political clout decide they could get some votes by "protecting" the recently flooded people (after a few years have gone by so nobody remembers that they never flooded before the dikes or whatever were put in), the Corps (usually) comes in and puts on another bandaid fix and floods someone else. Because our society is conditioned to expect instant gratification and never take responsibility for their actions, the Corps are hailed as the saviors of the people and it's those bad ol' environmental whackos that are obstructing things. Nobody looks for the deeper cause, and nobody wants to alter their behavior, because after all, the people who CAUSE these problems are the first ones to get their bandaid fix, so they don't have a problem. Altering their behavior might reduce their income, and they'd have to drive the Navigator TWO years before they get a new one. The horror!

Elswhere on these forums, you can find stories of lake associations, made up of the owners of multi-million dollar lakeside homes with manicured and Chemlawned grass right done to the water's edge, blaming the sudden increase in algae on the farms upstream, which have been there for generations. Same thing. And I'd be willing to bet that they will get the farmers closed down, and get a permit to chemically kill off the algae in the lake, and nobody will say a word about those lawns, or the fact that the number of lakeside mansions has tripled in the past twenty years.

Sorry. This issue just pushes all my buttons. I don't normally rant and rave like this... OK, most of the time I don't... FINE! I talk too @#$%@#! much. Satisfied? [the voices in scubohuntr's head are happy now]

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Scubohuntr.It's good to see someone having the guts to actually state what is happening with re: to flooding.I'm amazed!

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CANOPY SAM

Holy Smokes Fellas,
It took me nearly fifteen minutes just to read this dialog!
In reference to the original question Scoot, the sturgeon project is a joke. Why bother? The Red River of the North is already an incredible fishery - it's literally choked with fish. The trap net surveys show virtually unprecedented numbers of fish. Why are we even allowing the DNR to spend our tax dollars trying to improve on such a remarkable fishery. It's akin to adding a grain of salt to the Atlantic Ocean!
It's very sad what has happened to the Red River Valley. It would take many many years to reclaim what has been lost there. It reminds me of the Dr.Suess story of "The Lorax". It could also be just a climatic shift that hasn't been previously recorded. There certainly is geologic evidence of hundreds of years of flooding in the valley!
I have some very good ideas of how we might be able to reverse some of the flooding problems, but I'm afraid they would be lost on deaf ears. I was living in Ada the winter before the flood of 97', and I told people that we were in for a big one based solely on the depth of the snow base, but what I said was lost on deaf ears - and continues to be. I still own a home there, unfortunately, but I no longer live there, and never will again.
I don't have all the answers. Interestingly, I've fished the Wild Rice River for 5 years, caught hundreds of fish, and never even once seen a STURGEON....

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Sturgeons are native to the Red River system and they are part of a comprehensive management plan for the total system. You have to remember that they were nearly wiped out by us in the past by over fishing and the building of dams blocking their natural reproductive cycle.

Considering it will take 30 years to get them established again, & to hopefully again see naturally reproduction, a low angler catch rate for them is understandable considering the size of the system and the low number being transplanted at this time.

I have caught 6 in the last 4 years and seen many more, so they are there, and doing well.

------------------
Backwater Eddy..><,sUMo,>

Backwater Guiding
"Ed on the RED"
(701)-281-2300

[email protected]

http://home.talkcity.com/ResortRd/backwtr1/index.html

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