Meadowbrook Estates residents who've had to combat flooding during the past 10 years met with Ward County's engineers Wednesday to protest future drainage projects that could send even more water their way.
The meeting was prompted by the county's plan to drain some of the high water that has been flooding Ward County Road 18, southwest of Minot. The pattern of drainage flows toward Meadowbrook, a housing development southeast of Minot along Second Larson Coulee.
Drainage toward the southeast through Puppy Dog Coulee and First Larson Coulee have been concerns of the Ward County Water Resource Board for some time. Development around Minot has impacted those waterways. Meadowbrook residents worry that further development will affect Second Larson Coulee as well and will become the "last straw" for their properties.
This propane tank, shown in the yard of Al and Linda Torrington this past summer at Meadowbrook Estates, is attached to a pine tree and staked down after even higher water in 2005 picked up and damaged the tank, prompting the rural fire department to have to respond to the propane spill.
Emergency workers look over a flooded road in Meadowbrook Estates on Memorial Day in 2011 in this photo provided by Meadowbrook residents Steve and Janice Sweeney.
"Are we going to be the sacrificial lamb so they can expand Minot?" one resident asked.
The meeting was a cry for attention, which residents felt they haven't been getting from the county or City of Minot.
"We need something down here to make sure we are able to keep our homes," a resident said. "I have watched the creek in my backyard come up several feet."
Nearly 30 residents attended Wednesday's meeting at the courthouse.
The county's plan for Ward County Road 18 calls for connecting a series of sloughs and controlling the removal of water through culvert pipes and natural channels with the use of gates.
Ward County engineer Dana Larsen said the county would not release water during spring runoff but would look to maintain a flow of about five cubic feet per second during periods of normal low flow. Once the high water is lowered to the level it was pre-flood in 2011, only the water entering the system will be released and at a controlled rate.
Residents questioned who would monitor the system and how quickly flows could be shut down. Larsen said during times when flow is high, such as during the spring, the county would monitor the system on a constant basis. During other times, monitoring would be less frequent but residents in the area would provide an alert if an event occurred that required attention.
Larsen said the county has an interest in avoiding a high flow upstream that would negatively affect Meadowbrook downstream.
"You are worried about flooding. I am going to be more worried about erosion. By the time there's enough water to impact you, I am going to have a mess to clean up," he said.
The county is not adding water to the system with the project, Larsen added.
"The water is already there. Right now, it's maxed out and it's flowing out naturally," he said. "A lot of this water is already leaving in an uncontrolled fashion."
Some residents remained leery after hearing the plan described. However, Larsen said the plan could benefit Meadowbrook if the wet cycle continues by offering controlled releases.
"It's coming your way regardless," said Mike Gunsch with Houston Engineering, the company working with the county on County Road 18. "With this system, there's a certain amount of storage that's going to take place behind these culverts. With this project in place, it's controlled."
Residents also wanted to know what they could do to help themselves in the future and ensure they have input to the county and City of Minot when developments are proposed that could affect drainage in Second Larson Coulee. Larsen said the high ground water and filled potholes from the current wet cycle are a bigger impact on the coulee than new developments, but he encouraged the neighbors to come together to keep their concerns before the county water resources board.
Residents questioned whether their neighborhood is being looked after by the board now. They stated that the county has not cleared silt and debris in the water channel that is impeding the flow of water and contributing to flooding. One resident noted that it makes sense to clear the channel before sending through controlled flows.
Tom Klein, a member of the water board who attended the meeting, said the board is aware of Meadowbrook's concerns. The board a few years ago let bids to clean channels but conditions were too wet to work.
Klein said the board would need easements from residents to do a channel project with conditions as they are, warning that some land destruction would be required to get the job done. He indicated the board may consider channel cleaning after a resident commented it's better to lose some land to a channel project than your house to high water.