Trouble looms for Minnewaukan school

Mike Bellmore, Features Editor
Water could be lapping at the Minnewaukan school this spring as Devils Lake floodwaters continue to rise.

MINNEWAUKAN, N.D. - Officials in this Benson County community are following the spring forecasts on Devils Lake flooding closely.

After Governor Jack Dalrymple declared an emergency in the Devils Lake area this week because of the flooding, their concern was heightened.

The National Weather Service has issued a prediction for a substantial raise in the lake’s ever-rising level.

The areas affected by that prediction include the counties of Benson, Nelson, Ramsey and Towner, as well as Spirit Lake Nation.

If the prediction holds up, Minnewaukan Superintendent Myron Jury thinks the water could be up to his school’s parking lot by July.

The school is at 1,457, Jury says, and the school’s gym floor is at 1,454, a difference of three feet.

“We haven’t had any seepage yet, but that water is only 130 feet away,” Jury says.

“If it comes up two more feet like they’re saying, water would cover the street north of the school on the east side.”

Architects are currently working on a plan to move the school from its present location.

And plans are on the board for a new school which would be located west of Highway 281 and one mile north.

Land has already been purchased on a 45-acre site and the city will pitch in with its portion of the project when money becomes available, according to Jury.

Meanwhile, Minnewaukan is addressing other issues currently posing a problem.

One half of the community is currently below the 1,460 elevation so the water tower will have to be moved and other issues addressed.

“It’s going to be a scary spring,” Jury admits. “It’s going to be tough to get through this.”

Forecasts are indicating there’s a 50-50 chance Devils Lake will be 2.5 feet higher than the record crest of 1,452.1 achieved last June.

The new governor is seeking $5.8 million from FEMA to cover the cost of flood protection measures in the Benson County community.

That would include moving buildings, protecting sewer systems, but state and local governments will need to match 10 percent of the federal funds with their own funds.

The state has also instituted a task force led by the Department of Emergency Services to help Minnewaukan.