WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 22, 2011, 10:07 PM

Army Corps examing management of area lakes, rivers

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The Army Corps of Engineers is coming under more criticism for its managing of dams along the Missouri River.

The Army Corps of Engineers is coming under more criticism for its managing of dams along the Missouri River. Emails obtained by the Associated Press show that some in the corps knew that reservoirs on the river had not been drawn down enough to handle the massive spring run off. The flooding out west has corps officials here examining the management of lakes and dams in our area.

The record flows this spring that came out of the Garrison Dam north of Bismarck have people wondering whether the lakes were drawn down enough during the winter. Governor Jack Dalrymple has even said that maybe someone other than the army corps should take over management of the dams along the Missouri. The Bald Hill dam on Lake Ashtabula has come under some scrutiny as well as increased flows caused high river levels in Valley City this spring and summer.

Tim Berschi – Army Corps of Engineers: “Valley City last year would have been flooded without the water that was held in Lake Ashtabula.”

Our wet summer has the corps considering all options for next year for the reservoir.

Tim Berschi: “We're even in the process right now of looking at Lake Ashtabula, drawing it all the way down. We've heard that and we've shown that we have the figures. It shows that maybe there is not a lot of benefit to it because that bottom part fills up so quickly and stuff. But we're doing the environmental work. We know that this is coming"

The Missouri River is not handled by Bertschi's office but he understands what his counterparts in Omaha that river went through.

Tim Berschi: “It's just hard, we know when the snow is going to melt but how do you know how much is coming off and that it's difficult.”

And while people up and down the Missouri River are questioning the Army Corps. Here in the Red River Basin we've fought so many floods in the last 14 years that local officials have a different relationship with them.

Mayor Dennis Walaker – Fargo: "If we don't trust the information, we ask the questions and so forth. We do not turn everything over to the corps, they're our partner. We work together in building these emergency measures and so forth. That's why we've been lucky."

The Souris River in Minot is covered by Bertschi's office. The flood there sheds light on another difficulty the corps has when giving flood information.

Tim Berschi: “If we had gone back and recreated history and said we know we've got 28,000 coming into town, they'd have just laughed at you. Even when you have some indication, people are going to be hesitant to believe it until they have lived it. It makes it real tough to make decisions.”

The Army Corps says if Lake Ashtabula was drawn all the way down and we saw precipitation like last winter, it would fill back up in 3 to 4 days.