The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers apparently learned nothing from the disastrous Souris River flood of 2011, at least not when it comes to communication.
The Corps assumed control of Lake Darling Dam northwest of Minot on March 19 when the International Souris River Board declared a 1-in-10 flood event. Since then, the Corps has increased the amount of water released from the dam. On March 25, the Corps announced it was increasing the outflow to 700 cubic feet per second, and will boost that to 800 cfs in the next few days.
Here's the problem: The Corps said in a press release Monday that it will post "minor adjustments" to Lake Darling Dam releases on its Facebook page. A news release will be issued only if the adjustments are "sizeable in scope, or if the releases impact property or life."
Needless to say, those statements raise a number of serious questions:
V What are "minor adjustments?" The Corps' example Tuesday: 100 or 200 cfs.
V What does "sizeable in scope" mean? The Corps' answer Tuesday: News releases will be issued if and when a "milestone" release is reached, such as 1,000 cfs or 1,500 cfs.
V What constitutes releases that "impact property of life?" We still don't know.
As we found out during the 2011 disaster, the more information available to the media, the public and officials in the Souris River basin the better.
A "minor adjustment" in the Lake Darling outflow doesn't mean much to someone sitting at a desk in a Corps office in St. Paul, Minn., but it's significant to landowners and residents in northwest North Dakota. The Corps plan is simply unacceptable to the people of North Dakota, who could be greatly and adversely affected by the Corps' decisions.
Fine, use Facebook, too. But the media should be immediately notified of every change in Lake Darling Dam outflows by official press release, not just a Facebook posting, and not only when outflows reach some arbitrary level set by the Corps. It's the Corps' responsibility to inform North Dakotans of all its actions regarding flood issues. We thought that was pretty clear after 2011, but apparently not.
The Minot Daily News' Editorial Board formed this opinion.