International Joint Commission Invites Public Comment on International Souris Study Recommendations

The International Joint Commission (IJC) is inviting public comment on recommendations made by the International Souris River Study Board (ISRSB) in a report that reviews the 1989 International Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America for Water Supply and Flood Control in the Souris River Basin (the 1989 Agreement). Comments will be accepted at a public hearing to be held virtually on November 3, 2021 and by mail, email (Commission@ijc.org) and online from October 12th to November 15th, 2021.

Comments on the report can be made online, via email or by mail:

  • Online: Create an account using the link at the bottom of this page
  • Email: Send a comment to Commission@IJC.org
  • Mail: Send your comments to either of the IJC’s two section offices:
    • International Joint Commission
      Canadian Section
      234 Laurier Avenue West, 22nd Floor
      Ottawa ON K1P 6K6
      Canada
    • International Joint Commission
      U.S. Section
      1717 H Street NW, Suite 835
      Washington, DC 20006
      United States

The ISRSB’s full report and an IJC highlights report can be found on the IJC website at the following link: www.ijc.org/srsb.

 Public Hearing on ISRSB’s Report on Managing Water Supply and Flood Control in the Souris River Basin: 

Date: November 3, 2021 
 
Time: 12 PM-1:30 PM CT (11 AM-12:30 PM MDT/CST)
 
Location: Virtual, register online
                  

The International Souris Study Board was established by the IJC in 2017 in response to a request by Canadian and United States governments. The request was precipitated by an unprecedented 2011 flood in the Souris River basin. The basin is part of the Prairie Pothole Region and stretches across Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada, and extends into North Dakota in the United States.

The governments asked the IJC to coordinate the full completion of the 2013 IJC Plan of Study, a post-flood activity. As part of this, the IJC was asked to evaluate and make recommendations regarding the Operating Plan contained in Annex A to the 1989 International Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America for Water Supply and Flood Control in the Souris River Basin. Among other items, the agreement coordinates the operation of certain dams and reservoirs in the basin.

Although the study was precipitated by the historic 2011 flood, the basin also frequently experiences low water supply periods. The Souris basin is currently experiencing very dry conditions due to below average precipitation in the basin since fall 2020. Spring runoff also was below normal this year throughout the basin and conditions continue to be dry.

The study board findings and recommendations cover five themes:

  • Reviewing the performance of the operating plan in the 1989 International Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America for Water Supply and Flood Control in the Souris River Basin
  • Strengthening water supply and flood control benefits
  • Improving data collection and management
  • Addressing other water management challenges in the basin
  • Building on the study’s engagement and outreach including initiating a new approach to engaging with Indigenous peoples in both countries.

The public hearing and comment period concern potential recommendations that the IJC will make to the Governments of Canada and the United States. The recommendations being considered include a suite of alternative measures for incremental or marginal improvements to the 1989 Agreement:

  1. Modify the Winter Drawdown Elevation Targets to build greater flexibility into reservoir operations by varying reservoir elevation targets according to antecedent moisture conditions in the basin;
  2. Extend the Winter Drawdown Date from February 1st to March 1st to provide additional river flow for improved environmental benefits during February;
  3. Lower the Spring Maximum Flow Limits to reduce flood peaks and agricultural flood risk during small to moderate floods in riverine reaches in North Dakota (i.e., floods under 57-85 m3/s or 2,000 to 3,000 ft3/s;
  4. Establish a Summer Operating Plan to provide more guidance to reservoir operators to better manage summer reservoir operations under all conditions;
  5. Shift the Apportionment rule calculations to a Water Year (November to October) from the current Calendar Year (January to December) to ensure flood protection releases in November and December are credited toward apportionment.

The Souris River Study Board report and its recommendations were developed from an expert review of operating plans of structures contained in the 1989 agreement. A Public Advisory Group, Resource Agency Advisory Group and Indigenous advisers also provided substantive input for the Study Board’s considerations in the development of the report. Public meetings and advisory group workshops were carried out on numerous occasions throughout the study.

Study experts analyzed the current operating plan using a range of scenarios in a reservoir simulation model. Potential alternatives to the current plan were evaluated for those scenarios in the model to determine if there could be improvements to the operation of the reservoirs. The report describes both the strengths of the existing plan and potential benefits and impacts of the refinements studied.

View the ISRSB's Full Report.

View the Souris Study Highlights Report.

 

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