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Dave Roepke, Published April 23 2011

Kindred deals with overland water

KINDRED, N.D. – Floodwater was spilling across North Dakota Highway 46 here Friday, threatening to close or damage the crucial regional roadway.

State transportation de­partment crews were trying to bolster the highway on its north side with large rocks to combat potential erosion from the breakouts surging from the Sheyenne River, said Cass County Engineer Keith Berndt.

Traffic was slowed to 15 mph in a stretch of about a mile on Highway 46, most of it just west of Kindred, a city of about 650 people 25 miles southwest of Fargo.

Kindred Mayor Wayne Lunder said it looked to be more water than Highway 46 took on in 2009, when floods closed the highway for repairs until May 21.

“I’ve never seen it come across that much,” Lunder said. “I think people in the path of the water are getting pretty stressed out.”

Lunder said Kindred residents should stay dry, as the natural drainage takes water around the town to the east and the west. He didn’t hear of any problems yet in rural homes, though the state National Guard has quick response teams stationed in the area.

The prospect of overland flooding staying high for a week, which the National Weather Service was predicting, did concern the mayor, however. The water could back up into the west side of town if part of the highway washes out.

“We should be fine, but you always hate to say that,” Lunder said.

State officials are likely to be reluctant to close the highway, Berndt said. “It’s a huge economic impact to this area. There’s no other east-west route,” he said.

Losing Highway 46 does “mean a lot more driving,” Lunder said.

The overland flooding is coming from the Sheyenne River, which was on Friday afternoon just inches below the 21.55 feet it hit in 2009 at the Kindred gauge, according to the weather service.

Overland flooding is expected to work its way north in the coming days.

“There are a lot of county and township roads that are going to go under,” Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said Friday.

Mayor Larry Palluck in Davenport, a town of about 250 that is eight miles north of Kindred, said the flooding is still filling up culverts and ditches in the area.

“All we’re doing here is just sitting and waiting,” Palluck said.

Officials had warned the area’s residents to plan on major Sheyenne flooding, due to water released from the Baldhill Dam upstream north of Valley City, which has held back the river for more than a week as it reached near-record levels.

Releases from Lake Ash­tabula into the Sheyenne through the Baldhill Dam held steady at 6,000 cubic feet per second Friday.

Rich Schueneman, the Army Corps of Engineers’ resource manager at the dam, said output in the next few days will depend on how much rain falls. He said about a quarter inch fell Thursday into Friday.

In Valley City, the Sheyenne was down to 19.27 feet, City Administrator Jon Cameron said. But the weather service still predicted a possible bump back up to 20.4 feet, depending on how much rain the Shey­enne River basin gets.

“We’ve been there before, and we don’t want to be there again,” he said.

Through Friday afternoon, 45 homes in Valley City and 29 in Barnes County had been vacated due to access issues or because they’ve taken on water, a spokeswoman at the Barnes County Emergency Operation Center.

In Lisbon, levees were doing well, but sanitary sewer pumps were struggling Friday, said Mayor Ross Cole. He urged residents to conserve water to ensure that the system wouldn’t be overcome.

Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt contributed to this report

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535.