December 31, 1997
|The Honorable Madeleine Albright|
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
|The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, P.C., M.P.|
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
Dear Secretary Albright and Minister Axworthy:
The International Joint Commission is pleased to provide its interim report to the Governments of Canada and the United States under the reference of June 12, 1997 on flooding in the Red River basin. The report describes progress made by the Commission in addressing the causes and effects of damaging floods in the basin and proposes short-term actions which, if implemented, will contribute to reducing and preventing harm from future flooding. The governments asked for the Commission to provide an interim report by December 31, 1997, and a final report as soon as practicable before the end of 1998.
Progress to Date
In anticipation of receiving the June 12, 1997 request from the governments, the Commission considered generally what it might do should it receive the reference. It decided that it was essential to:
The Commission visited the flooded region in May 1997, while the downstream portion of the basin was still inundated by flood waters. Commissioners viewed flooded areas, received briefings, met with community leaders, and saw the effects of the flood first-hand. The Commission also consulted with members of its established boards in the region, obtained briefings and information on preparations and responses to the flood, and explored possible means of alleviating future damages from floods.
After receiving the June 12, 1997 reference, the Commission appointed an International Red River Basin Task Force (membership attached) to assist it in addressing the specific questions and issues posed by the governments. The Task Force is binational and multi-disciplinary. The members serve the Commission in their personal and professional capacity, in the interests of the Red River basin as a whole, and not as representatives of their agencies, organizations or other affiliations. The Commission directed the Task Force to take note of the work of other agencies and organizations in both countries, to access the full breadth of available programs and information, and to reach its decisions by consensus. The Commission also stressed to the Task Force the importance of public outreach and consultation in conducting its work.
The Commission and the Task Force held three meetings in the Red River basin with community leaders during the week of September 29, 1997. The purpose of these meetings was to obtain some initial perspectives on local impacts of the flooding and to help frame the broader issues in a way that ensures further consultations are productive. Meetings were held in Moorhead, Minnesota; Grand Forks, North Dakota; and Morris, Manitoba. The Commission also met with Manitoba Premier Filmon, Provincial Ministers Pitura and McCrae, North Dakota Governor Schafer, North Dakota Senator Conrad, and the Red River Basin Board.
The Commission participated in a number of workshops and conferences on the flood of 1997. Several of these provided valuable insights into the flood and its impacts, allowed discussion with those affected by the flood and those involved in fighting its fury, and established valuable contacts for pursuing various aspects of the reference. The Commission made presentations at two conferences: the Flood of the Century International Research Workshop in Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the North Dakota Science Council Annual Meeting and Symposium on the Red River Valley Flood of 1997 in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
The Task Force commissioned interviews with families affected by the flood and with civic officials and local emergency management coordinators. It also convened a workshop on the social dimensions of the flood. Reports documenting this work are available upon request.
In addition to issuing a directive outlining the Task Force's responsibilities, the Commission provided guidance to Task Force deliberations, participated in certain Task Force meetings and workshops, held numerous conference calls with the Task Force Co-Directors, discussed issues with Task Force members, and provided suggestions and views on Task Force work.
Task Force Interim Report
The Commission encloses for the governments' consideration the interim report of the International Red River Basin Task Force, Red River Flooding: Short Term Measures and Plan of Study, dated December 1997. The report provides a brief description of the Red River basin and its flood history, examines the 1997 flood, and offers 40 recommendations for near-term implementation to assist in preventing or minimizing damages from future floods. It addresses emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation (reducing potential future flood damages.) The report also contains a draft Plan of Study outlining the means of examining in more detail a number of issues and opportunities that could lead to long-term improvements in floodplain management in the Red River basin.
The Commission was pleased to discover the many prudent steps taken to prepare for the 1997 flood, the prevailing spirit of binational and other cooperation throughout the basin, and the measures currently being taken to better prepare for future floods. The Commission believes that the interim report will help officials in both countries identify further opportunities for improvement in flood preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation.
The Commission has carefully considered and fully endorses the recommendations of the Task Force. Accordingly, the Commission recommends as follows:
The Commission commends the Task Force for providing extremely valuable guidance in such a short period of time, particularly given funding difficulties. The Commission stresses the interim nature of the report and the need to further pursue many matters raised in the reference from the governments. Under ideal circumstances, the Commission would have preferred to obtain public comment on its interim recommendations prior to presenting them to governments; however, the short time frame for preparing the interim report did not permit this approach. The Commission encourages governments at the federal, state, provincial, and municipal levels to work together to implement the recommendations, in the near-term, to provide a measure of protection and preparedness, and to minimize damages from potential flooding in 1998. Recognizing that aspects of some recommendations are already being addressed at various levels of government in both countries, the Commission emphasizes the need for governments at all levels to begin immediately to address all of the recommendations.
Plan of Study
In its interim report, the Task Force presents a proposed Plan of Study, which describes how it intends to complete its work under the reference. It describes the plan as a work in progress which requires further consultation and input prior to being finalized. The Commission plans to hold public consultations in the Red River basin in February 1998 to obtain public comment on the interim report and the proposed Plan of Study, and to hear from the people of the basin. Following these consultations, the Plan of Study will be finalized and work will proceed to further address the matters identified in the reference. Some work will be undertaken prior to finalizing the Plan of Study to avoid undue delays. However, this work can be adjusted, if necessary, in the light of views expressed at the public consultations.
The Task Force recommended to the Commission that the final reporting deadline identified in the original reference be extended by six months in order to allow for the research and investigations required to address appropriately the governments' request. The Commission supports this recommendation as the Task Force has been unable to commence substantive work with respect to hydrologic and hydraulic modelling, data analysis, and social impact reviews. The Commission requests the governments' concurrence for an extension of the final reporting deadline under the reference to June 30, 1999. The Commission recognizes that this time extension results in the reference work extending over an additional spring flood season. However, implementation of the near-term measures recommended will serve to ensure better preparedness for both the 1998 and 1999 flood seasons. Furthermore, should additional near-term measures that might further alleviate potential flood damages be identified during the Task Force and Commission deliberations, these will be brought to the governments' attention for immediate consideration.
The Commission expects that its final report will provide guidance, tools, and a framework for action that will enable jurisdictions in the basin to be better prepared for future flooding in the Red River basin. Such floods will inevitably occur again. The only questions are when, and how best to be prepared. Prior to presenting its final report to the governments, the Commission will hold public hearings in the basin to ensure that interested groups and individuals have an opportunity to present their perspectives on the matter under investigation.
The Commission would be pleased to discuss the interim report with the governments at their convenience, should they so desire.
Signed this 31st Day of December 1997 as the International Joint Commission's Interim Report to the Governments of the United States and Canada under the June 12, 1997 Reference on Red River Flooding.
|Leonard H. Legault|
|Thomas L. Baldini|
United States Chairman
|Susan B. Bayh|