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Published May 21, 2013, 09:31 AM

Temporary levee protecting Renwick Dam, Cavalier; flood fighters monitoring conditions in Crystal, Neche

Construction crews built a temporary levee overnight at Lake Renwick on the Tongue River to keep the river from spilling over Renwick Dam’s emergency spillway and flooding the community of Cavalier, N.D.

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald

Construction crews built a temporary levee overnight at Lake Renwick on the Tongue River to keep the river from spilling over Renwick Dam’s emergency spillway and flooding the community of Cavalier, N.D.

“It is stabilizing. We still do have a threat in that the water is still high enough to give way,” Pembina County Emergency Manager Andrew Kirking told the Herald this morning.

The temporary levee, which is about 6 feet high and 300 feet long, is keeping water off of Renwick Dam.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings Monday for Pembina, Walsh and eastern Cavalier counties, which have received 3 to 5 inches of rain since Friday. Rain has continued to fall overnight.

Construction crews started building the Lake Renwick temporary levee at about midnight, according to Kirking, using two backhoes, two bulldozers and four or five articulated dump trucks.

“They’ve been able to get ahead of the rising water. They have a 2- to 3-foot buffer,” he said. “Some local contractors really have been burning the midnight oil and giving it their all to keep the town safe.”

The city of Cavalier is operating under its emergency action plan “emergency level 2,” which does not require evacuation, but asks residents to have a bag packed in case they need to quickly leave the area.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service, state and local governments are financing the $7.25 million renovation project that began in 2010.

The Renwick Dam, built in 1961, was considered a high-priority project for rehabilitation under the Watershed Rehabilitation Act of 2000 when the reconstruction was approved.

The dam is located at Icelandic State Park, about 5 miles west of Cavalier, the Pembina County seat with about 1,300 residents.

The project includes retrofitting some new features into the dam, including raising it by 5.4 feet. In addition, a structural emergency spillway will replace a vegetative spillway that is used today.

Meanwhile, overland flooding continues to threaten the community of Crystal, N.D., a town of about 140 located about 15 miles to the south.

“Water is still water coming into the town,” Kirking said. “It is not rising anymore. With the pumps they have, they haven’t been able to get ahead of it, but it’s not getting any worse.”

Crystal Mayor Larry McCullum called for a voluntary evacuation Monday evening.

Local volunteers on Monday placed more than 8,000 sandbags on the west side of town and at some rural residences.

As much as 6 inches of rain fell over the weekend west of the community, with rain continuing Monday and today. That land drains to the Cart Creek, which runs through Crystal on its way to the Park River.

In Neche, N.D., the Pembina River was at major flood stage 21.26 feet at 6:45 a.m. today. Major flood stage is 20.5 feet.

Kirking said the river is staying within its banks in Neche, a town of about 370.

“The town is pretty well fortified,” he said. “They’re fairly confident they’re going to be able to stay dry.”

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