National Guard placing 1-ton sandbags at dam in northeast North Dakota due to 'possible imminent rupture'

In an announcement on Facebook early on Tuesday, May 3, the Cavalier County Sheriff’s Department said nearby North Dakota Highway 5 is closed from North Dakota Highway 1 to North Dakota Highway 32 due to “possible imminent rupture of the Dam.”

Kyle Gagner Bourbanis Dam 3.jpeg
Each sandbag placed by the National Guard near the Bourbanis Dam weighs one ton.
Contributed / Kyle Gagner
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CAVALIER, N.D. — The North Dakota National Guard is placing sandbags downstream of the Bourbanis Dam in eastern Cavalier County, west of Cavalier, North Dakota, which the Cavalier County Sheriff's Department says is in danger of rupturing.

In a Facebook post early on Tuesday, May 3, the Cavalier County Sheriff’s Department said nearby North Dakota Highway 5 is closed from North Dakota Highway 1 to North Dakota Highway 32 due to “possible imminent rupture of the Dam.”

On Tuesday morning, Gov. Doug Burgum authorized the North Dakota National Guard to dispatch two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to place one-ton sandbags to help stabilize the dam. The helicopters left Bismarck at 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday.

Volunteers in Cavalier are filling the sandbags used by the National Guard. According to Kyle Gagner, a volunteer and resident of Cavalier, the crew filling sandbags on Tuesday included a construction company, contractor, county water board members, an agronomy crew, farmer and a pastor.

“It’s amazing being part of a small community when you watch everybody rally together, often not even knowing what the real risk is, just knowing that their neighbors and friends need help,” said Gagner.


Volunteers in Cavalier also worked through the weekend to fill normal sized sandbags . Many, says Gagner, are short on sleep, but still giving their all to flood fighting efforts.

“It’s not often when you wake up at five in the morning after going to bed at three that you are excited to be going somewhere, but I was excited this morning to go load big sacks for the helicopters to drop,” said Gagner.

Between 20 and 30 guardsmen are active on Tuesday assisting with different parts of the dam stabilizing efforts, says National Guard spokesman Bill Prokopyk. He says this is not the first time the National Guard has been called to move one-ton sandbags. In 2009, the North Dakota National Guard placed sandbags with helicopters to reinforce a dam near Lamoure, North Dakota, and to defend Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo when the dike was breached.

The National Guard is working with Pembina County Emergency Management and the Pembina County Water Resource District to stabilize the dam. The dam is a part of the Tongue River watershed. The Tongue River is a tributary of the Pembina River, which then flows into the Red River.

Residents in the immediate downstream area of Bourbanis Dam have been notified of the situation. As of Tuesday morning, Pembina County Emergency Manager Samantha Diemert had no further updates on the status of the dam or potential impacts of a rupture.

With the potential for more heavy rain Friday night, the mayor said emergency personnel were in the process of recommending others in the city to consider leaving their at-risk homes. The sheriff’s office also advised those who’ve left their homes to avoid returning to them until it is safe to do so, and the public was also asked to stay away from the Randall area so emergency personnel could do their jobs effectively.

Related Topics: FLOODING
Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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