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Mouse River Park protected from high water for now

“There is no water flowing through Mouse River Park,” Kristy Titus, Renville County Emergency Manager, said Monday morning.

4/10/13 (Wed)

By Caroline Downs

“There is no water flowing through Mouse River Park,” Kristy Titus, Renville County Emergency Manager, said Monday morning.

Titus made the statement in response to news that flows in the Mouse River have increased both upstream and downstream from the Park in response to the heavy spring runoff anticipated to enter the watershed once temperatures rise enough to melt the snow pack.

However, Titus emphasized the stop logs have been installed in the water control structures at Mouse River Park, and the gates are closed. “And the stop logs will stay in if the water stays high,” she said.

She also noted the dike along the river has not been compromised in any way. “We know we have a solid dike structure,” she said.

While flooding does not seem likely at this time, Titus reminded Park residents and visitors that several factors have to be monitored, including temperature changes, water releases, snow melt and ice break-up.

Releases downstream from the Lake Darling dam are another factor, and Titus was pleased with the current situation. “If they can draw that down like they want to, that helps us tremendously,” she said, adding that low levels in Lake Darling prevent back-flooding in the Park.

Titus did expect some pumping would take place at low areas in the Park, mostly due to seepage. “We have the resources to do that,” she said.

Park caretaker Darrell Iverson reported water started spilling across the county road on the west side of the Park, as of Monday.

“It’s supposed to work that way,” Titus explained, “but we hope that’s short-lived. The county will have to watch that, and if it gets too bad, that road might have to be closed.”

Water flows past the Park were expected to reach about 3,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) this week. “We’re hoping to get some of this [Canadian release] water through before it starts to melt here,” Titus said.

One concern is the amount of ice still on the river. “It’s not an open river like we would want it to be right now,” said Titus, “but it is starting to get slushy. Also, the closer you get to the Park, the more snow there is on top of the ice. We want the water to flow better.”

She added several individuals are monitoring water and ice conditions along the river, ready to report any ice jams.

While structures and facilities in Mouse River Park are protected from the river at this time, Titus described farmers and other residents living north of the Park had started moving their hay, livestock and machinery out of harm’s way, although no one was experiencing severe flooding as of Monday.

“There are so many variables, and they change from day to day,” said Titus.

She remains in frequent communication about the river’s activity with representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, North Dakota Game and Fish, and the Renville County Water Board.

Park facilities
to open in May
Iverson was not worried about water conditions at the Park as he prepared the campground and other public facilities to be open by early May. “That’s my estimate,” he said. “So far, so good.”

Construction continues on a project to remodel the auditorium into a new bar facility for Park residents and visitors. Iverson said the heavy snowpack and cold temperatures had delayed some of the work that still needs to be done for the construction, but he anticipated opening the bar along with the other public facilities this season.

Dam releases up,
lake elevation dropping,
ice fishing still possible
Downstream from Mouse River Park, releases from Lake Darling Dam measured 2,800 CFS Monday afternoon, with the lake’s elevation at 1593.88 feet. “And that’s dropping,” said Tom Pabian, Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge manager. “The target elevation for the lake is 1593.0 feet when the local runoff starts.”

Because water flows have increased through the channel, Pabian said the river below the dam is now completely open. “Basically, it’s all shoreline fishing along there now,” he said.

Ice conditions on Lake Darling itself remain variable. “Around the bridges and on the river channel, it’s thinning,” Pabian said, “but I was out there fishing Sunday and I had 30 inches of ice. It’s going to change daily now.”

He reminded fishermen that heavy snow cover continues to blanket the ice, making vehicle travel nearly impossible on most of the lake. Access to the lake is generally on foot.

“Right now, if you want to go ice fishing, we’re encouraging people to test the ice or walk with an ice bar,” said Pabian. “If you’re going to be out there, have a plan and be safe.”