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Published February 20, 2010, 12:00 AM

Lisbon, Valley City to use 2009 flood lessons

Leaders of Valley City, N.D., and Lisbon, N.D., which battled their worst spring flooding ever last spring, say their communities are better prepared this year. “Here we go again. We’re looking at another major flood,” said Valley City Mayor Mary Lee Nielson.

Leaders of Valley City, N.D., and Lisbon, N.D., which battled their worst spring flooding ever last spring, say their communities are better prepared this year.

“Here we go again. We’re looking at another major flood,” said Valley City Mayor Mary Lee Nielson.

But this year, unlike the spring of 2009, “We’re going in with our eyes wide open. We learned a lot last year,” she said.

For instance, the city will be more efficient with its sandbagging this year, she said.

Dikes remaining in place from last year were left 1½ feet higher and widened, which will help this year, Nielson said.

The Sheyenne River has a 49 percent chance of reaching major flood stage in Valley City this spring, according to the National Weather Service.

The Sheyenne River at Lisbon has a 95 percent stage of reaching major flood stage, the National Weather Service said.

Lisbon officials gained hard-won flood-fighting experience a year ago, Mayor Ross Cole said.

“You hate to have back-to-back floods, definitely. But you probably get a little bit better at it (fighting the flood) when you don’t forget,” he said.

“It’s pretty early to say we’re going to get flooded,” Cole said. “But it doesn’t hurt to do a lot of pre-planning and be prepared in case it does.”

Permanent dikes built after severe flooding in 1997 helped the sister cities of Wahpeton, N.D., and Breckenridge, Minn., avoid the worst of the 2009 spring flood, said Brett Lambrecht, Richland County, N.D., emergency manager.

Wahpeton and Breckenridge leaders are confident those dikes will help again this year, but are taking flood preparations seriously, he said.

Lambrecht said Richland County officials are concerned about – and preparing for – potential overland flooding from the Wild Rice River.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already is releasing water from area dams to free up storage space for spring melt.

The drawdown, or lowering of the water level, in Lake Ashtabula near Valley City into the Sheyenne River began last November, said Tim Bertschi, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Fargo.

Lake Ashtabula already is near the lowest level it can be, he said.

Lowering the water level behind Orwell Dam on the Otter Tail River near Fergus Falls, Minn., will begin March 1.

“It’s such a small lake that we really don’t need to (start earlier),” Bertschi said.

Small amounts of water already are being released from Lake Traverse on the Bois de Sioux River near Wheaton Minn.

The amount being released will increase on March 1.

“We’re very confident we’re going to get every bit of storage we can out of those reservoirs before we start seeing the runoff,” Bertschi said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530

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