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Jamestown preps for high water

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- With the colder weather, snowmelt and runoff have slowed enough throughout the area that the interagency committee, made up of city and county officials, will hold off meeting again until Tuesday.

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- With the colder weather, snowmelt and runoff have slowed enough throughout the area that the interagency committee, made up of city and county officials, will hold off meeting again until Tuesday.

But despite the break in the weather, work continues in preparation for high water releases and downstream flooding. Many of the agency representatives said they were hearing that it's not as bad as last year -- at least not at this point.

"The cold has slowed things down, but don't get lulled by that," said Stutsman County Emergency Manager Jerry Bergquist.

Other agency representatives agreed there's still a lot of winter and spring weather to get past.

"We're preparing now, but if it all breaks open, we could be in trouble," said Fire Chief Jim Reuther.

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Dike construction began Friday in Jamestown, said John Bartel, Army Corps of Engineers field operations officer for the James River Valley. The $579,000 contract was let Thursday evening and dike construction began south of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad bridge. The next contract will focus on the north side of the bridge.

Bartel said a number of calls have centered on stakes in resident's yards.

"If you see stakes, they're not the center line of the levee. They're called offset stakes," he said. He added the stakes are likely 10, 15, even 20 feet from the actual dike placement.

Sandbag operations for the city will start up at 7 a.m. Monday at the James River Correctional Center. At this time the city is looking at a need for 40,000 to 50,000. Starting Tuesday, sites needing volunteers to fill sandbags for area residents will be at Wilson Arena for adults and Jamestown High School for students. Noel Johnson, chief operating officer for the county, said they're still working on sandbagging times at the high school and safety issues for both sites. They're speculating, he said, that about 200,000 sandbags will be needed.

"They'll fill for a couple of days, but we won't let any go until at least Thursday," Johnson said. "We'll set up times for residents to come and get the bags. I'd advise using the call center if you need bags."

The Flood Hotline is 251-6241. It is manned daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

County Highway Superintendent Mike Zimmerman said very few area residents have shown up at the Road Department to fill and haul sandbags. He added that he checked the Beaver Creek situation and found the water is flowing around the ice chunks. It's not backing up at the bridge, he said, and, unlike last year, the ice chunks are not as "big as a house."

The scarce items in this year's flood preparation are pallets and plastic sheeting. Reuther said he's only tracked down about 600-700 pallets so far and doesn't know where more can be found. Sandbags are piled on the pallets for transport.

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"If we have to make them, we will," Johnson said.

Kim Hanson, project leader for the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge Complex, said the refuge is in much better shape this year. At this time last year, he said, the ice on the lake was 2- to 3-feet thick, with the water flowing into the lake raising the ice.

"This year there are spots of open water," he said, so ice jams probably won't be as much of a problem.

Only one dike is planned, he said. If the water is going to hit an elevation of 1450 feet, the refuge office will get diking. The buildings closer to the lake were flooded last year and will be demolished so no dikes will go up to protect them.

City Engineer Reed Schwartzkopf said the sanitary sewer's force main line from the main lift station to the wastewater treatment plant has two distinct leaks. The lift station and the line serve the entire community. He added the line is 60 years old and will need to be replaced. At this point, trying to dig it up to fix the leaks would only make the problem worse.

"We're not in imminent danger mode now, but high infiltration will put heavy pressure on it," Schwartzkopf said. "The leaks are manageable now. Our intent is to try and weather the storm."

When it's needed, the city is planning to pump the wastewater into tankers and haul it to the lagoons. There's no time or funds now to do more, Schwartzkopf said.

"If there's a catastrophic failure, then we'll hire an auxiliary pumping firm to handle the wastewater," he said. "But within 30 to 60 days, we'll try to have a contract on construction of a new line. We can't afford to lose it."

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The Jamestown Sun and the Herald are owned by Forum Communications Co.

Related Topics: 2010 FLOODSJAMESTOWN
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