Ryan Ackerman has been a part of the flood fight since the very beginning.
“Ultimately, we got washed off of the levees late, around 2 o clock in the morning one night. The river got too high. That was after being out there for probably five days straight [with] maybe five hours of sleep in five days kind of a thing,” Ackerman, engineer and administrator of the Souris River Joint Board, recalled.
“Just totally exhausted. I remember getting home. My wife was sitting on the couch. The videos were playing with regard to what was happening in Minot and it just hit me. I sat and I sobbed for like two hours. Just, you know, that we had lost. We lost this fight. I just felt so ashamed of what was happening. And ultimately, it was that rupture. After kind of collecting myself I said, alright, I know what my purpose is. I know what I’m going to do.”
His purpose is clear. Flood protection.
“We learned a lot in 2011,” he said. “A lot. I would never say that we’ll ever be able to fully tame mother nature but we’re going to be in a much better position and we’re not going to be as caught off guard next time something happens.”
A 500-year flood event may not be the most likely thing to happen. But 10 years ago, the overflows of the Mouse River ravaged Minot’s valley.
“It’s been an interesting decade.” That’s, perhaps, the simplest way to summarize the aftermath of the 2011 flood.
Ackerman explained, “What the system that we had at that time, was not designed to protect against was, that snowmelt event followed by large and persistent rainfall events that occurred starting really in early April and continued through the end of June.”
Nearly 20 years ago when Ackerman’s engineering career began, he had no idea he’d spend most of it designing a system that would protect the Souris River Basin from such devastation.
“It’s not just another job,” he said. “This is a career-trajectory-altering thing, for me. After 2011, I committed to doing this and I’m going to stick with it until I’m done.”
With about $400,000,000 invested in the billion-dollar project, what’s been built has changed the look of the river’s path through Minot.
Huge earthen levees from the Hwy 83 bypass to the water treatment plant, a flood wall and a ditch system were all finished last year.
A massive pump station and the nearby 4th Avenue floodwall are almost done.
Ackerman says in about five years, 63% of the Minot valley will be protected from a flood the size of 2011’s disaster.
Depending on approval of funding, the remaining areas of town under threat could be finished in time for the 25th anniversary of the flood.
“We keep on designing and we keep on constructing as we can afford it, basically,” said Ackerman.
Becky Farr will detail what’s left to build, which parts are paid for and what’s left to be funded in the third and final part of Navigating the Waters of Flood Protection, Friday night on KX News at 10.