Area flooding, mitigation bringing Sen. Hoeven, Gov. Dalrymple to area today

Louise Oleson, Editor
Dick Johnson, the mayor of Devils Lake, N.D., speaks to the North Dakota Senate's Natural Resources Committee at a hearing in the state Capitol in Bismarck on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011. The panel is considering legislation to authorize construction of a water control structure on the east end of Devils Lake, which is a body of water south of the city. (AP Photo/Dale Wetzel)

It’s been a long, tough fight for residents of the Lake Region and it’s not over yet.

Sen. John Hoeven and Gov. Jack Dalrymple have good news to bring to the area. They are heading into the area later today to announce that FEMA has agreed to make $5.8 million available in hazard mitigation grants to help Minnewaukan residents.

The pair will be reviewing with local officials the plan the U.S.?Army Corps of Engineers has for flood mitigation.

According to a press release from the North Dakota governor, Dalrymple made the formal request on January 7, following a series of meetings and phone calls he and Hoeven had with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Doug Gore of FEMA Region 8, and other agency officials urging them to allow the city to access a pool of $5.8 million in HMG funds to help the city of Minnewaukan cover the costs of flood mitigation measures. The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds sought by Dalrymple would be used to help pay the costs of moving buildings or protecting critical infrastructure such as water lift stations, sewer lines and sewage lagoons.

If approved, the grant requires a 10-percent state and local match.

“We are very pleased to receive such a timely response to our request for funding from FEMA,” Dalrymple said. “This makes it possible for us to put our mitigation plan together immediately.”

“This is clearly good news for Minnewaukan and the wider community of Devils Lake,” Hoeven said. “We now have another piece in place for our joint effort to make sure the region has the resources they need to protect businesses and residents from ongoing challenge of flooding.”

In addition, the Senator has asked U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Kendall Bergmann and Project Coordinator and Levee Expert Bonnie Greenleaf to meet in Devils Lake Friday to provide federal, state and local officials with a review of work underway to fortify levies and other infrastructure in the region. Hosting them will be Devils Lake Mayor Dick Johnson.

Also participating in the tour will be Rep. Dennis Johnson; Rep. Curt Hofstad and State Water Commissioner Todd Sando.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, water levels in the Devils Lake region are currently at 1451.6, with a 90 percent chance they will rise to 1453.5 and a 50 percent chance they will rise to 1554.6. Greater than average precipitation and heavy snowpack suggest Devils Lake and Stump Lake will rise to record levels this spring and summer.

The area is looking at unprecedented flooding this coming spring, even if it gets no more precipitation than has already fallen.

According to Mark Ewens, data manager for the North Dakota Weather Service in Grand Forks basin wide the area now has 10 to 20 inches of snow, depending on where you are in the basin.

He says there is normally four to six inches of  liquid, or from 15 to 20 percent in that 10 to 20 inches of snow.

His concern is not so much the depth of the snow, but how widespread those depths are.

The elevation of Devils Lake on Nov. 1, 2010 was 1,451.21 down slightly from its high reached earlier in the summer but, again, according to the National Weather Service, the lake froze up at the highest level ever recorded and is currently within a half a foot of the summertime record level.

The National Weather Service at Grand Forks released the initial spring flood outlook on December 23, 2010. That report indicates that Devils Lake and Stump Lake will likely rise (60-80 percent probability) to a new record height in excess of 1454 ft elevation, and could rise (33 percent probability) to a height in excess of 1455 ft. At these levels portions of the community of Minnewaukan will be inundated, along with additional homes, businesses and critical infrastructure surrounding these lakes. The next outlook for the Devils Lake Basin is scheduled for January 27, and will likely show an increased risk of a 2-3 foot rise, based on the much above normal snowfall that continues there.