Releases increase from reservoirs

The amount of water being released from two reservoirs in southern Saskatchewan was increased Wednesday from 1,589 cubic feet per second to 1,977 cfs.

While increased water in the Souris River system is understandably attention-getting to those who experienced flooding in 2011, the releases are being conducted for the purpose of increasing the amount of storage in reservoirs that will be receiving runoff once the melt gets under way.

Rafferty Reservoir near Estevan, Sask., increased outflows from 883 cubic feet per second to 1,059 cfs. Alameda Reservoir near Oxbow upped outflows from 494 cfs to 706. An additional 212 cfs released from Boundary Reservoir into Long Creek, which joins the Souris, remained unchanged.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced its intention to keep flows in the Souris at the Sherwood crossing into North Dakota at or below the 3,200 cfs rate contained in the International Agreement. The Souris has risen more than 11 feet in recent days at Sherwood. However, as of mid-morning Wednesday, it remained ice covered.

A noticeable change in the Souris occurred Wednesday in the stretch of river immediately below Baker’s Bridge. With releases from Lake Darling upped to 2,300 cfs Wednesday, the river began to widen its course. Open water could be seen on the Souris less than a mile above the Burlington bridge as the increased flows began to be felt at points downstream.

In the Baker’s Bridge area water began flowing into road ditches Wednesday and could be seen slipping over various low points along the riverbank. It is a situation that is a common springtime occurrence in those reaches of the river.

According to the Corps, it intends to hold the 2,300 cfs release rate from Lake Darling until the reservoir is lowered to 1,593 feet. When that level is reached, says the Corps, it will reduce outflows to allow snowpack moisture to run through the system. Furthermore, states the Corps, it will begin increasing the level of Lake Darling to the summer operating level of 1,597 feet after the melt begins.

Minor flooding was occurring Wednesday afternoon at the Wildwood Country Club layout north of Burlington. Owner Barry Myaer said holes 13, 14 and 18 were susceptible to flooding at approximately 1,400 cfs. Dikes protect holes 3, 4 and 5 to approximately 2,500 cfs.

“I haven’t really got any damage yet,” said Myaer Wednesday afternoon. “I’m not worried now, but if it comes over the dike it is really a pain.”

Current projections from the National Weather Service include the chance of minor flooding at several points along the Souris, but not where protective dikes are in place. The majority of Minot’s dike system is said to protect against a flow of 7,000 cfs.

“At 5,000 cfs everything stays in the river,” said Dan Jonasson, public works director. “If we get to 3,000 or 4,000 cfs we’ve got pumps ready to put on storm sewers so water doesn’t back up.”

The most recent Probalistic Flood Outlook issued by the NWS gives Minot less than a 10 percent chance of reaching flood stage in the weeks ahead.

“We still have a fear of ice jams,” reminded Allen Schlag, NWS hydrologist in Bismarck. “In some ways we are pushing this to the limits, but I’m encouraged that we haven’t yet had any ice problems.”