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MINNEWAUKAN: Flood-affected students begin historic last year

School begins Wednesday in the final year for the flood-threatened Minnewaukan (N.D.) Public School. Footings were being poured this week on a new $7 million school building that is being built on higher ground a couple of miles away from the rec...

School begins Wednesday in the final year for the flood-threatened Minnewaukan (N.D.) Public School.

Footings were being poured this week on a new $7 million school building that is being built on higher ground a couple of miles away from the record-breaking Devils Lake. The new school is expected to be ready for classes next August.

"I think we're right on time, on schedule," Superintendent Myron Jury said Tuesday. "We want to have it enclosed by the end of the year."

In the mid-1990s, Devils Lake was eight miles away from Minnewaukan.

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a $1.2 million, 3,000-foot-long emergency embankment to keep floodwaters from inundating the school and some homes and businesses, as well as threatening the community's water and sewer systems. The embankment runs through the school's parking lot.

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Devils Lake has risen by about 32 feet and quadrupled in size since 1993, reaching an unofficial record elevation of 1,454.39 feet above sea level in late June. It was at 1,454.15 feet Tuesday.

Preliminary enrollment totals 263 in K-12, although Jury expects it to rise to about 270, about the same as last school year.

The school district has 11 new teachers this year. Jury said two teachers retired, while several moved away, some of them back to their hometowns. Two of the teachers, who are married, moved to Minot after receiving a flood acquisition offer on their home.

Minnewaukan officials say the city's population has dropped from about 320 a few years ago to less than 200, mainly the result of people moving away as floodwaters have damaged or threatened their homes.

They're hoping the population will rebound after the development of West Minnewaukan, a 42-acre tract across U.S. Highway 281 that will include the school, as well as residential and business districts.

The core of Minnewaukan, including the downtown business district and the Benson County Courthouse, is built to elevations well above 1,460 feet, so those buildings should remain out of reach of the growing lake, which will begin spilling into naturally to the Tolna Coulee and the Sheyenne River at an elevation of 1,458 feet.

The state also is working to reduce the chance of a catastrophic spill by building a second outlet to the Tolna Coulee, as well as a control structure and a possible third outlet from Stump Lake.

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send email to kbonham@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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