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Published December 15, 2010, 04:39 PM

Red River Still Without Ice in Places Because of High Levels

The Red River in Grand Forks is flowing higher and faster than usual for this time of year, and that's keeping it from freezing over. Reservoirs in the southern valley are already at high water levels, and it's all flowing straight north.

The Red River in Grand Forks is flowing higher and faster than usual for this time of year, and that's keeping it from freezing over.

The Army Corps of Engineers is pushing out 2,000 cubic feet per second from Lake Traverse near Sisseton, SD, and the Orwell Dam near Fergus Falls, MN. Both reservoirs are already at high water levels, and it's all flowing straight to the northern valley.

"The idea in the back of their minds is that they will have to lower the reservoirs, they usually do that in the Spring and their target date is in March but we have been having flooding earlier and earlier," said Mike Lukes with the National Weather Service.

Lukes says it should keep Fargo from sandbagging in the Spring because the water that is usually released during snowmelt is being released now. That puts the river level at Grand Forks at 18 feet. It's at 16 feet at Fargo. That's higher than average for both cities.

"A lot of the time in the Spring we do get snowmelt, snow-packed melting, and there is a lot of water flowing from other tributaries, Wild Rice and the Rabbit River. This will help. The reservoirs are built for flood control," said Lukes.

With warmer water coming up from the bottom of the river along with the friction of the fast-moving current, the Red is still not frozen over completely.

"Right now, it's impacting the ice fishermen, so that's an impact. Now that the ice is open and it starts to freeze late, you know snowmobilers are on the river during the winter. We have to be careful of thin ice," said Lukes.

The National Weather Service doesn't know when the ice will freeze over. Lukes says that it will start to freeze in the next couple of weeks as it gets colder.

"It would be nice if we had a lower water level in the spring if it happens or not it remains to be seen you know," said Lukes.

Lukes says the Corps may have to release more water from the upstream dams in January.

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