2019-20 Winter Outlook

 This 2019-20 Winter Outlook map for precipitation shows wetter-than-average weather is most likely across the northern tier of the U.S. this coming winter. Graphic provided by NOAA.

The water level across much of northwest Minnesota and eastern North Dakota has stayed higher-than-normal for fall, and officials are keeping an eye on the potential for springtime flooding.

As of Oct. 29, moderate flooding continued to occur on the Sheyenne River near Kindred, N.D. and West Fargo. Moderate flooding was also reported near Oslo, Minn., Drayton, N.D., and Pembina, N.D., along the Red River.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., planned a flood protection update and tour with Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James in the Fargo-Moorhead area on Nov. 1. The meeting was set up to ensure the Army Corps provides funding to keep flood protection projects on track.

Eighteen North Dakota counties have declared emergencies related to flooding or the Oct. 10-12 blizzard: Barnes, Cass, Cavalier, Dickey, Grand Forks, Foster, Griggs, Kidder, LaMoure, McIntosh, Nelson, Richland, Rolette, Steele, Stutsman, Traill, Walsh and Wells. The cities of Grand Forks, Jamestown, LaMoure and Valley City also have declared emergencies. On Oct. 21, Gov. Doug Burgum signed an executive order declaring a statewide flood emergency, a critical step in requesting federal disaster declarations to help North Dakotans deal with impacts caused by heavy fall rains and a historic October blizzard.

The Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security and Emergency Management is monitoring current flooding activity in the Red River Valley of the North, said Amber Schindeldecker, public information officer for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

“We have been in touch with local emergency managers who have indicated that they are adequately able to respond to current flooding issues,” she said, in an Oct. 21 email to this reporter.

In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) is working with the current flooding event and those expected in the future.

The ACE can provide direct assistance through any flooding event, once local and state resources have been used, said George Stringham, ACE spokesperson and public affairs specialist.

“It’s just a simple request,” he said. “We can come in and help with direct assistance through providing technical expertise with our engineers, or in some cases, depending on the severity of the situation, constructing temporary earthen levees to protect critical infrastructure.”

After building levies with gravity drains or pump stations, the ACE transfers the work over to non-federal sponsors.

Stringham said ACE releases water to free up storage ahead of blizzards and rainstorms. There are three reservoirs within the Red River Basin, he said. Near Valley City, N.D., is Lake Ashtabula, formed behind Bald Hill Dam to impound the Sheyenne River.

Orwell Dam is located southwest of Fergus Falls, Minn., and impounds the Otter Tail River; and Lake Traverse impoundment near Wheaton, Minn., is drained by the Bois de Sioux River to reduce flooding to the Red River.

“It’s a balancing act (releasing water from reservoirs),” said Stringham. “At the same time, we’re communicating with the downstream communities to make sure they have what they need, or find out what their concerns are, as well as working with other officials.”

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