- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota officials are pushing the Army Corps of Engineers to make long-term flood protection for the Souris River Valley a priority.

Local and state officials fear that any work they do on a proposed $1 billion protection plan might mitigate the flood threat enough that federal officials will decide they don’t need to get involved. That could kill the project that has been in the works since river flooding in June 2011 caused by heavy spring snowmelt and rains resulted in nearly $700 million in damage in Minot, also affecting some rural areas and communities.

“What happened in 2011 changed the psychology of our community,” Minot Mayor Chuck Barney said. “Every spring, every major rain event, our phones go crazy because of the trepidation that the flood of 2011 caused. And what we’re looking for is to remove that from our psyche so that our citizens can sleep well at night.”

Maj. Gen. Michael Wehr, commander of the corps’ Mississippi Valley Division, and St. Paul District Commander Col. Dan Koprowski toured the valley Monday and learned about the proposed flood protection project. Legislation in the U.S. Senate would authorize the corps to begin 10 new projects in 2016.

North Dakota officials want the Souris River project to be one of them. Wehr said getting agency funding will be competitive and that the key will be to demonstrate a solution that works not only for the Souris River Basin but can be an example for the rest of the nation.

Wehr said the federal government’s goal is “making sure we put money where it matters most.”

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