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Mouse River Park should be safe from flooding

The flood forecasts are in, and all eyes in Ward and Renville counties are on the Mouse and Des Lacs rivers...waiting for the ice to thaw as winter transitions into spring at a delayed pace this year.

3/30/11 (Wed)


The flood forecasts are in, and all eyes in Ward and Renville counties are on the Mouse and Des Lacs rivers...waiting for the ice to thaw as winter transitions into spring at a delayed pace this year.


With forecast high temperatures in the upper 30s and low 40s for this week and overnight lows dropping below the freezing mark, the spring runoff seems to be on hold, but officials in the area are watching the rivers carefully.


Tom Pabian, refuge manager at the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, noted that outflows at the Lake Darling dam on the Mouse River have been maintained at approximately 1000 cubic feet per second for the past few weeks. “And the inflows coming from Canada have started to decrease the last week or so,” he said. “Lake Darling has peaked and is dropping in elevation, creating some additional storage for us.”


According to Pabian, upstream residents should have few concerns about high water and flooding in the short term. “Once the run-off starts, we have no control over that,” he added, “but everybody’s keeping an eye on it.”


One individual keeping a very close eye on the situation upstream from Lake Darling is Renville County Water Resource Board chair Jim Burbidge of Mohall. “It’s complicated this year,” he said. “They’ve released water out of the dams in Canada to get the river in condition in case of a fast local melt.”


He paused and laughed before continuing, “But it just doesn’t want to warm up!”


Mouse River Park did have a slight problem earlier this winter with some extra water. “During those early releases, a lot of the river was still iced up and we had to break that ice away to get our gates up,” Burbidge explained.


He noted that a sluice gate is placed over the end of a culvert at the south end of the Park to control flow. At the north end, 2’x6” planks are used as stop logs in the water control structure. “One reason we like to have that open in the winter is that it facilitates more water flowing through the Park,” Burbidge said. “But things today are contained.”


Pabian agreed. “They can keep ahead of what’s gong on right now.”


Both he and Burbidge referred to several sources of potential water between the Canadian reservoirs and Lake Darling. “We’ve still got quite a bit of area that isn’t controlled,” Burbidge said, “like the coulees between here and there and Short Creek up by Northgate. These things all add to it.”


Darrell Iverson of Tolley, who serves as caretaker of Mouse River Park, said the water levels there have been dropping. “It’s gone down quite a bit in the last four to five days,” he said. “There should be no reason to be any flooding in the Park.”


Burbidge was more cautious about the flood outlook. “We’re not going to make any guarantees,” he said. “We use the Internet to watch the gate readings at Sherwood. Right now, the elevation of the river at the Park is around 1,598 feet. If it gets to the 1601-foot gauge reading, we will order a mandatory evacuation of the Park. We keep Darrell [Iverson] in the loop and our [county] emergency response person.”


All water control activity along the Mouse River is currently overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with Pabian, Burbidge and other federal, county and local officials acting under the Corps’ authority.


Water has been released from the Rafferty and Alameda reservoirs in southern Saskatchewan throughout the 2010-2011 winter months. “This is the first year they’ve done it this way,” Burbidge said. “They want to control the water up there, but I think it’s going to take some more fine-tuning.”


Iverson’s more immediate concern about the Park had to do with fielding phone calls about campsites. “It’ll all depend on Mother Nature,” he said about Mouse River Park’s expected opening date this year. “We usually expect to open around the first part of May, and everything should be open and running by Mother’s Day.”


He laughed as he described a conversation with one long-time visitor who called and reminded Iverson he pulled his trailer to the Park last year on April 10th.


“I told him, ‘You can bring your camper, but you better bring a scoop shovel, too,’” Iverson said. “You just don’t want to expect to go camping tomorrow!”


Des Lacs River

could peak fast

In the absence of a refuge manager stationed at the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge, Pabian and Souris River Basin project leader Kelly Hogan are monitoring water levels on the Des Lacs River, which is still frozen through the refuge. “Typically, any flooding on the Des Lacs happens within a short time frame, about 48 hours,” said Pabian. “The Des Lacs peaks basically overnight.”


On the refuge itself, the water levels are controlled by several structures. “Most of the problems with the Des Lacs runoff come downstream,” Pabian said. “Typically, we see a lot of runoff from up on Baden Hill and the coulees between Carpio and Donnybrook.”


He noted that he and Hogan would continue to track the water levels, but he emphasized conditions could change quickly for local residents downstream from the refuge. “Especially this late in the spring,” he added.


Further information regarding potential flooding, including the National Weather Service’s flooding forecast, maps and hydrographs of specific locations downstream along the Des Lacs and Mouse rivers, can be found on Ward County’s website at by clicking the “Ward County Flood Information” link.