PAGE, N.D. – The Upper Maple River Dam will hold back 9,950 acre-feet of water to protect three townships in northwest Cass County where the river can widen to 2 miles during floods.

The $9 million project, completed in late October, will be in operation this spring, culminating almost 20 years of planning and preparation.

"It's a relief," said Jurgen Suhr, a farmer who serves as chairman of the Maple River-Steele County Joint Water Resource District, which built the dam.

The dam is about 15 miles northwest of Page.

The project involved the cooperation of neighboring Steele County, although the 22,365 acres of cropland protected by the dam are in Cass County.

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"I'm real thankful for their cooperation," Suhr said Monday.

The Upper Maple River Dam is a dry dam, meaning that it only holds water during floods, allowing farmers to continue using pasture and cropland. The 5,000-foot earthen dam will create a pool covering 925 acres during floods.

Funding for the dam was divided among state and local governments as well as property owners who benefit from the project.

The North Dakota State Water Commission contributed the largest portion, $4.7 million, followed by a $2.7 million contribution by the Red River Joint Water Resource District. Cass County contributed $725,000 and the remaining $825,000 was raised through assessments of downstream landowners.

The assessments passed in a vote garnering support of more than 80 percent of landowners, Suhr said.

"It's going to be vital," Gerald Melvin, who serves on the Maple River Water Resource District, said of the Upper Maple River Dam. "It'll have a nice impact. It's going to take some pressure off everything downstream."

The Maple River flows into the Sheyenne River, which in turn empties into the Red River downstream of Fargo-Moorhead near Harwood.

Further flood relief for the area could be provided if a couple of other projects located farther west in the Maple River Basin, in Steele and Barnes counties, reach fruition, Suhr said.

The $29 million Maple River Dam, on the lower river near Enderlin, was built in 2006 and holds 60,000 acre-feet, the volume of water that would cover an acre a foot deep.