Aquatic Invasive Species

Nutrient Management Strategies

Nutrient Capture Through Water Management and Biomass Harvesting

Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan/Natural Resources Framework Plan

Citizen Engagement for Voluntary Nutrient Management Strategies in the Red River Basin

Halstad Upstream Retention (HUR) Modeling

Stream Gaging and Precipitation Network Project Outline

Basin Wide Flood Flow Reduction Strategy:
Flood damage reduction efforts have often focused on individual communities or interests and taken the form of a protection strategy. Commonly implemented protection measures include levees and diversion channels. While these measures are effective and can be implemented in a relatively short time frame, they do little to reduce the overall flood problem. In fact, they simply move excess flood water from one area of the basin to another. This forces basin planners to allocate protection on some basis of need. Determining in essence whether it is ok to protect large communities at the expense of small communities; small communities at the expense of farmsteads; farmsteads at the expense of farmland; and farmland at the expense of natural land (or vice versa).

The primary alternative to a protection strategy is a flood flow reduction strategy. This strategy reduces flows on the mainstem by altering the hydrology of the contributing watersheds as a basin wide effort. The benefits of reduced flooding would be distributed along the entire length of the Red River, not just to targeted communities. Equally important, the benefits would extend far upstream into the tributary watersheds. Implementing this strategy requires allocating the necessary flow reductions to each contributing watershed.

To assist in the flow reduction allocation process, the Red River Basin Commission developed a Red River Mainstem model. The model was based on Mike 11 software developed by DHI Water and Environment Inc, Denmark. It has been calibrated to simulate the 1997 spring flood. Physical features of the Red River and its flood plain are represented in the model as cross-section data. Hydrologic inputs are the measured flows from the main tributaries and derived flows from the ungaged tributary areas. This model can now be used to simulate the mainstem response to reduced flows from tributary areas.

As a preliminary exercise, the tributary flows were reduced in the model to meet a flow reduction goal of 20% along the entire length of the Red River Mainstem. A factor in selecting 20% reduction as an initial goal was the effect it would have had at Grand Forks in 1997.  That amount would have reduced the flood to a level that the (then existing) levees would have been expected to withstand. The modeled results are shown on the attached figures. The flow reduction required from each subwatershed is illustrated as the difference between the existing and altered tributary hydrographs.

IISD/RRBC Building Capacity for Multi-Purpose Land & Water Investment in the RRB:
The “Building Capacity for Multi-Purpose Land and Water Investments in the Red River Basin” project aims to jointly develop a decision support system (DSS) with relevant stakeholders.  The DSS will provide capacity to examine the costs and benefits associated with natural capital (or natural environments) restoration investments at the basin scale and within municipalities and counties.

A number of shared issues (flooding, water quality and supply) are being faced by the residents of the Red River Basin on both sides of the border.  Well structured tools can assist with communicating the interconnectedness of these issues and provide a systems perspective that can help open up new possibilities for discourse and policy making pathways.  An integrated high resolution decision support system (DSS) at the right scales (basin-wide and watershed scales) could improve overall communication and decision making within the basin.  The need to continue fostering cooperation between the residents of the basin to jointly solve trans-boundary issues is more relevant today than ever before.

Tributary reduction strategies were based on timing, by targeting waters contributing the most to mainstem peaks. Other factors considered include tributary damage reduction and the practicality of achieving specific flow reductions. Tributary peak flow reductions ranged from 0 to 50%. Peak flow reductions on strategic tributaries averaged about 35%.  The combined flow reduction on all tributaries upstream from Emerson totaled 885,000 acre-feet, which is about 13% of the total 1997 flood volume at Emerson.

The amount of constructed storage required to achieve a 20% reduction would likely be greater than 885,000 acre-feet depending on the quality (efficiency) of storage provided. Flow reduction can be achieved by implementing a wide variety of measures including on-channel or off-channel impoundments; culvert sizing or waffle storage; wetland restoration or land use change. Gate controlled flood storage impoundments are the most efficient measure to reduce flood flows. Strategically located and precisely operated, they may have close to 100% efficiency in meeting the flow reduction goal. That is, the amount of constructed storage required to meet the 20% reduction goal would not be much greater than 885,000 acre-feet. On the other hand, flood specific factors such as variability in runoff will likely leave some constructed storage underutilized. Other measures, such as culvert sizing, provide only short term storage. Short term storage, in the right location, can reduce peak flows, but in the wrong location, it can actually increase peak flows. A mix of measures may be the best approach. The combined efficiency of the mix in meeting the tributary flood flow reduction goal would have to be determined locally.

Final Report:
Establishing a Foundation for Ecological Infrastructure Investments in the Red River Basin

Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP):
In 2010, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)  allocated $2.61 million in financial assistance through the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP).  These funds will be administered by the NRCS in the Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota portions of the Red River Basin.  Funds are being utilized at the local landowner level to help address problems related to erosion, water quality and flooding. 

These funds will be used to pay landowners to assist in flood reduction goals by funding activities helping slow the flow of water and sediment carried with it, improving water quality and providing flood benefits.  The Red River Basin is one of the targeted watershed basins in the U.S.

RRBC has partnered with local, state and federal agencies, farm and commodity groups, and others.  AWEP funds will be used for the following strategies: 1) cover crop (sugar beet, etc.) strategy, 2) beach ridge erosion reduction strategy, 3) restricted flow sediment pool strategy, 4) water flow retardation strategy, 5) stream bank erosion reduction strategy, and 6) ring dikes and other EQIP strategies.

A basin wide working group assisted in helping identify locations to implement these strategies.  The strategies will slow the beach ridge run-off which causes erosion and poor water quality from sediments and nutrients; restrict flows by use of culverts and dikes; retard flows of water; and proven tools such as stream bank erosion projects, buffer strips, wetland restorations and cover crops.  All together, these strategies will improve water quality (reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment) and provide changed flows (enhancing available supplies and positively impacting erosion patterns). 

For more information on eligible projects, contact your local Soil Conservation District office in ND and SD, the local Soil and Water Conservation District office in MN, the local NRCS office, the local Watershed District office in MN, the local Water Resource District office in ND, RRBC, or your congressional representative’s office.

Drought Scoping Document:
Flooding is often thought of as the most common water issue in the Red River Basin.  However, drought is also a reality for the basin. A drought that would extend from months to years has the potential for an economic catastrophe far surpassing any flood.

In addition the impact on residents, businesses, wildlife and the environment would be equally devastating. The Red River Basin Commission (RRBC) funded this Red River Basin Drought Preparedness Strategy Scoping Document to outline what a fully developed basin-wide drought strategy could include and the resources and timelines needed to prepare such a strategy. This process is intended to explore what can be done now under the current jurisdictional laws, regulations and the lack of any jurisdictional arrangements for managing available water resources during a prolonged drought.

Among the goals of this document are:

  • Outline what a fully developed drought strategy for the basin could include;
  • Provide costs for preparing the fully developed drought strategy;
  • Establish timelines related to the costs;
  • Consider and build on jurisdictional water law, existing and planned projects;
  • Outline a strategy of information gathering, discussion, and joint policy efforts.

The total cost of development of a drought preparedness strategy for the Red River Basin is estimated at USD $790,000 over approximately 2 to 3 years

Drought Jurisdictional Process:
One of the recommendations from the Basin Drought Scoping Document was the need for a jurisdictional process for dealing with a drought that would grow in length and severity.  This project would identify how policy discussions related to MB, MN, ND, and SD could move forward to define a process that would address water supply issues in event of such a drought if it occurred before additional supplies of water would be in place.  This project document has to be put together with guidance from the jurisdictional water supply working group and is nearing completion so that the policy discussions can move forward.
        * Drought Immediate Process Executive Summary

Drought Conservation/Soft Path:
Another recommendation from the Basin Drought Scoping Document was the need for a strategy that expanded conservation/soft path approaches for public education identifying actions and activities that could be utilized to address a continually reducing supply of water in an extended drought.  This project is underway and documents that will identify strategies for implementation is being prepared by the jurisdictional water supply working group.
       * RRB Water Conservation Planning Outline

Assiniboine River Basin Project:
The Lake Winnipeg Watershed is a very large watershed covering much of central Canada along the border and neighboring states on the U.S. side. This watershed includes several major sub-watersheds.  These are: Red River (Assiniboine River); Winnipeg River; and the Saskatchewan River.  These three river watersheds have the potential to work together and strategize on how to compliment activities for the entire Lake Winnipeg watershed.

RRBC and the Partners of the Saskatchewan organized a Lake Winnipeg conference in November of 2007 that led the RRBC board to look toward including the Assiniboine River (the Red River’s major tributary) in RRBC activities.  To guide this decision the RRBC decided to visit with Assiniboine River stakeholders to determine their interests in working together and potentially linking to RRBC.  A report, funded by MB Water Stewardship has been completed based on months of local stakeholder visits and a meeting held in Brandon, MB in late October 2008.  This report identifies the interest in the Assiniboine River Basin stakeholders to form an organization to work together, to utilize the RRBC organizational model, and to form their own group but link to RRBC.  RRBC will continue to assist them in their organizational stages and work with them afterward.  The jurisdictions of MB, ND, and SK will be asked to participate in these efforts.

Winnipeg River Basin Project:
RRBC is working on a Winnipeg River Basin Project that is parallels the Assiniboine River Project in scope and strategy.  This project is now underway, and is hoped will eventually lead to a group in the Winnipeg River Basin that the Red, Assiniboine, and Saskatchewan River organizations will all link to completing a Lake Winnipeg watershed network connecting local, provincial, state, and federal stakeholders.

2013 Project Summaries - NRFP

Drainage Tour 2013



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