Agencies meet to discuss flood prevention measures
By Daniel Arens
Over the course of the last decade, flooding has become a concern in Mercer County. A large flood on the Knife River in 2009 caused extensive damage in Beulah and Hazen, while a smaller-scale (but still powerful) flood occurred again in Beulah in 2014.
Since the 2009 flood, the Mercer County Water Board has been trying to get a survey on the Knife River completed. Due to various reasons, including the larger floods in eastern North Dakota, the survey was held up, but it was finally put together in 2015.
The immediate result of the survey was a meeting held in Beulah Feb. 11, including representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the North Dakota State Water Commission, the Mercer County Water Commission, the City of Beulah, and others. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the results of the survey and develop possible solutions to flood risk that could lower the damage level of future events.
Beulah City Coordinator Russell Duppong opened the meeting with a presentation using online maps and videos that had been taken from the 2014 flood in Beulah for the federal and state representatives in attendance. Duppong and other representatives from the local area stressed the significance of the small tributaries of the Knife River that run through Beulah, one of which was the source of the 2014 flooding.
After the major 2009 flood, the only action taken was the installation of a retention dam on the “northeast” tributary (that is, the small river that runs from northeast of Beulah into the town and then on to the Knife River). Nothing was done at the time on a similar tributary that came into Beulah from the northwest. It was along this “northwest” tributary that the 2014 flood occurred.
Local representatives stressed that flood control measures in Beulah take account of these tributaries as well the Knife River itself.
“We’re here to update the focus of this study,” Duppong said, adding that the presentation “shows flooding doesn’t just come from the Knife River.”
Although Beulah received Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid after the 2009 flood, their request in 2014 was turned down by the federal agency.
Corps of Engineers Omaha District Project Manager Ron Beyer asked questions about the existing retention dam to the northeast. He warned that, while considering a similar dam was an option, if flood waters were high and strong enough to breach the dams, they could cause even larger problems for the community, since the location would be slightly upstream from town itself, and waters from a breach would pour down into Beulah.