JAMESTOWN, N.D. — When Desiree and Davis Schmidt went to bed Sunday night, Oct. 20, they could still see their yard past the sandbags protecting their home. But by the time they woke up Monday morning, water from the rising James River was starting to seep through.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced on Oct. 16 that it planned to release more water from the Jamestown and Pipestem dams to lower reservoir levels, and residents near the rivers are already seeing the rise.

A fall blizzard and heavy rain in September caused concern that the extra water could create a greater threat of flooding in the spring, and officials said they would begin releasing more water from the dams until they reach a combined 2,400 cubic feet per second. The city estimated last week that three dozen homes could be threatened.

Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich said at a Monday community meeting that even the current release goal won't be enough — though a decision has not yet been made on further increases.

The James River swells past its banks in Jamestown Monday, Oct. 21, and reaches sandbags placed to protect townhomes from the extra water being released from the James Reservior upstream. Derrek Murray / WDAY
The James River swells past its banks in Jamestown Monday, Oct. 21, and reaches sandbags placed to protect townhomes from the extra water being released from the James Reservior upstream. Derrek Murray / WDAY

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That comes after residents near rivers are already nervous about what it could mean for their homes and livelihoods.

"It's just a matter of time ... our dike is up and everything, but we already have seepage coming through," Desiree Schmidt said. "As they let more water out — which is necessary — it's going to keep coming closer to our home."

Schmidt said her family will have to move furniture in a couple of days if water continues to rise and that they may have to evacuate their home.

"At some point, if this comes into our house, we're probably going to have to leave," she explained. "We're not going to be able to walk through the water during the day, get ready for school and make breakfast ... this could displace our entire family."

The Schmidts are hoping the weather will cooperate and the sandbags will help keep the water at bay so they can still stay in their home.

As water continues to rise, the city of Jamestown is asking residents to reduce their water usage and to have their sump pumps drain into the storm drains because their sewer systems are close to capacity.

The Jamestown Sun contributed to this report