Weather Forecast


Flooding caused by Canada? Dorgan seeks Clinton's help about road dike along U.S.-Canada border

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Sen. Byron Dorgan is appealing to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help resolve the dispute over the 30-mile-long road that serves as a dike that has resulted in substantial flooding along the U.S.-Canadian border in Pembina County.

Dorgan, D-N.D., contends that the "road dike" violates three provisions of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.

"I'm urging Secretary Clinton to get involved and help us solve a longstanding dispute that the Canadians have stubbornly refused to address," Dorgan said Friday. "For years this dike has caused water to back up into North Dakota, flooding farmland and hurting our state's economy. It's time we get this resolved."

The Manitoba dike initially was built in the late 1940s.

Portions of the dike were destroyed by U.S. citizens in the late 1960s in an attempt relieve flooding. In 1969, Canadian farmers and other residents rebuilt and raised the road 12 feet above the landscape.

"I believe the road dike to be a clear violation of the Boundary Waters Treaty," he wrote to Clinton. In his letter, he outlines three Boundary Waters Treaty violations:

# Article II states, "Any interference with or diversion from their natural channel of such waters on either side of the boundary, resulting in any injury on the other side of the boundary, shall give rise to the same rights and entitle the injured parties to the same legal remedies as if such injury took place in the country where such diversion or interference occurs."

# Article III states, "No further or other uses or obstructions or diversions, whether temporary or permanent, of boundary waters on either side of the line, affecting the natural level or flow of boundary waters on the other side of the line shall be made except ... with the approval, as hereinafter provided, of a joint commission, to be known as the International Joint Commission."

# Article IV states that both countries will "not permit the construction or maintenance on their respective sides of the boundary of any remedial or protective works or any dams or other obstructions in waters flowing from boundary waters or in waters at a lower level than the boundary in rivers flowing across the boundary, the effect of which is to raise the natural level of waters on the other side of the boundary unless the construction or maintenance thereof is approved by the aforesaid International Joint Commission."

"No such approval for any of the aforementioned has been given by the International Joint Commission, and Manitoba has refused to refer the matter to the body for adjudication," Dorgan wrote to Clinton.

Dorgan included with the letters a series of photographs from the spring floods this year that illustrate his point.

Several years ago, the North Dakota and Manitoba governments agreed to build a series of drains through the border to take some of the water stress off the North Dakota side. North Dakota agreed to pay for the work, which would be done by the Canadians.

Only two of the five proposed drains were built.

Both of them, located near Pembina, were open during the height of the spring flood this year, and water was flowing at that point. But at Neche, the community was threatened by floodwaters while the Manitoba farmland on the north side of the border was virtually dry.

In 2006, when the region experienced similar flooding, none of the drains was open.

Flooding around Neche this spring caused a washout of a 160-foot section of North Dakota Highway 18 about 300 feet south of the border, just north of Neche.

Both Gov. John Hoeven and Manitoba Premier Gary Doer have talked about potential compromise solutions in recent weeks, but the issue remains unresolved. Hoeven has sent his own letter and photos to the State Department.

In the meantime, the Pembina County Water Resource District is pursuing a lawsuit, with funding from the North Dakota State Water Commission, against the Manitoba government in the Canadian Courts to compel the province to remove or modify the structure. That lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial this fall.

The Grand Forks Herald and DL Newspapers are both owned by Forum Communications Co.