November 19, 1997


The 1997 Red River flood resulted in catastrophic damages to residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, and public properties in large portions of the Red River Valley in the States of Minnesota and North Dakota and in the Province of Manitoba. Significant emergency flood control measures were implemented in the United States and Canada to reduce the magnitude of the damages. However, these measures were at times inadequate to protect against the magnitude of the flood experienced and incomplete to protect many of the smaller communities, rural areas, and the public transportation infrastructure. In 1997, floods of record were experienced at many locations on both sides of the international boundary.

On May 3, 1997, the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and U.S. President William Clinton agreed that an international approach was needed to find long term solutions to Red River basin flooding. The International Joint Commission was requested AY to examine the causes and effects of flooding in the Red River basin, and to make recommendations on means to reduce, mitigate and prevent harm from future flooding in the Red River basin. @ The International Joint Commission is to produce an interim report by December 31, 1997 identifying measures that could be implemented in the near term, and a final report by the end of December 1998.

The Commission = s study will be international in scope involving a number of United States and Canadian federal and state agencies complimented with key local Red River basin interests. The assessment will be based on broad concepts using the volumes of information collected and available on past flood events and the most recent information collected during the 1997 flood. Objectives have been established that will guide the assessment concerning direction, scope, and results.

A Task Force has been appointed by the Commission to coordinate the investigation. The Task Force is to consult with the public on needs and concerns and provide, where feasible, an empirical basis for making policy recommendations to the two governments on flood preparedness, response, recovery, and risk reduction measures for the Red River basin. The following have been identified as matters of examination:

1) History, extent, and effects of flooding in the Red River basin . How does the 1997 flood compare to earlier events in the basin? What is the possibility of similar or larger floods?

2) Anticipated future Red River flooding . What are the potential effects of climate change on flood risks in the basin and how might that affect water management planning for the basin? What are the potential effects of climate variability on flood frequency, peak, and duration?

3) Emergency response . Are there lessons to be learned from this flood in terms of leadership, coordination and resources? Is there potential for greater cross border cooperation?

4) Recovery phase . Are disaster assistance arrangements for the recovery phase adequate to meet the needs of individuals and businesses? Are there adequate incentives to relocate outside the high risk flood prone areas?

5) Effectiveness of flood damage reduction measures . How effective were the existing measures (including permanent and temporary measures, as well as land use and land management practices)? Are there opportunities for repair and/or improvement? What are the priorities?

6) Flood forecasting . What improvements are necessary to the current flow and stage forecasting? Are the two country's meteorologic and hydrologic data networks sufficient? Are they complementary? What opportunities are there to incorporate remotely sensed information?

7) Hydraulic modeling . How accurate are the elevations in the valley? Can hydraulic conditions at peak flow be defined? If the information base and modeling techniques are inadequate, what actions need to be taken?

8) Land use . What are the effects of land use and land use change (including drainage) on flooding and flood mitigation? Are there trans-boundary effects?

9) Human health and the environment . What are the short and long term consequences? What measures can be taken to reduce environmental damages (e.g. preventing groundwater contamination) to help flood victims reduce risks to physical and mental health? What water quality issues are associated with flood events?

10) Floodplain management . What policies and programs are in effect to manage land use in the floodplain? What is the degree and adequacy of the enforcement, incentive and other management measures to reduce the risk of property, human and environmental damage within the floodplain? Is the current 100-year design standard still appropriate?

11) Synthesis and final report . This study will produce considerable data, models, and studies that will assist future floodplain management in the Red River valley. The intent is to review existing data and information, modelling and forecasting practices, institutional arrangements and to draw on experiences and lessons learned from the flood of the century to provide recommendations to the governments for future action to reduce the impact of flooding in the Red River valley. Prior to finalizing its report in December 1998, the Commission will hold public hearings in the basin to receive views of interested individuals and organizations.

Further information can be obtained through the internet by contacting one of the following:

In Canada:

In United States:


Revised February 1, 2002
Maintained by GLRO,