International Joint Commission cautions that efforts must remain focused on protecting against flood damages


In its final report on Red River flooding, released today, the International Joint Commission (IJC) cautions that, although the 1997 flood was a rare event, floods of the same magnitude, or even greater, can be expected to occur in the future. Economic damages in the United States and Canada from the 1997 flood approached $5 billion (U.S. dollars) and flood recovery and mitigation costs continue to grow.

While a significant number of flood mitigation actions have been initiated since 1997, the people and property of the Red River basin will remain at undue risk until comprehensive, integrated, binational solutions are developed and implemented. Solutions for one part of the basin must take into account the impacts on other parts of the basin.

Flood protection for major population centers in the Red River basin needs immediate attention. The risk of failure of Winnipeg's existing flood protection infrastructure is high under flow conditions similar to or greater than those experienced in 1997. Detailed assessment of the significant flood risks facing Fargo-Moorhead should be expedited so that appropriate mitigation measures can be identified and quickly implemented. Flood protection works currently being undertaken in Grand Forks-East Grand Forks also need to be completed in a timely manner.

The needs of small communities, individual isolated farmsteads and agriculture must not be overlooked. The flood plain ecosystem of the Red River basin must also be protected as part of the process of developing flood damage reduction solutions.

The IJC finds that there is no single solution to the challenge of protecting the people and property of the Red River basin against flood damages. All possible approaches, including both structural and nonstructural damage reduction measures, must be considered as part of a comprehensive plan. The IJC recommendations provide a blueprint for action for governments at all levels. The challenge will come in the execution of these recommendations to ensure that basin residents are resilient to flooding.

The IJC is a binational Canada-United States organization established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. It assists the U.S. and Canadian governments in managing waters they share, including examining and reporting on issues when asked to do so by the two federal governments.Living with the Red responds to a request of June 12, 1997 asking the IJC to make recommendations on the means to reduce, mitigate and prevent harm from future flooding in the Red River basin.

More information, including the full text of the report, may be found on the IJC's web site at, or from the IJC's offices.

Contacts: Frank Bevacqua Washington, D.C. (202) 736-9024 Fabien Lengellé Ottawa, Ontario (613) 995-0088