Eureka in trouble

Eureka Township has an abundance of water. Too much water.

The township has had high water problems in years past, but the current situation appears different. There are no signs of high water issues being resolved anytime soon.

Eureka Township is located immediately northwest of Minot. The township is bordered on the east by U.S. Highway 83 and on the south by County Road 10. A portion of County Road 10 had to be raised after rising water caused sloughs to join and inundated the roadway. It was a major project, similar to the raising of U.S. Highway 83 north of Minot on the east edge of Eureka Township.

Inside the boundaries of the township, away from state and county roadways, there are high water troubles, too. Water swamped 100th Avenue in 2010. It has since been raised and is useable once again, but it took Federal Emergency Management Agency funding to do so. Like many other townships, Eureka’s budget was ill-prepared to cover the cost of raising roadways disappearing underneath rising water.

An example is a section of 62nd Avenue, where sloughs on either side of the road rose to the point where they joined and flooded a key township roadway.

“So here we are, a township with an annual revenue of somewhere near $50,000 and we have a $240,000 project,” said Gary Granzotto, township board chairman. “We had FEMA involved but, as often happens, the rules change and FEMA backed out of that project. We really needed a significant grade raise.”

Sixty-second Avenue was underwater for nearly two years. The water over 62nd finally receded enough by July of this year that the road was visible once again. However, it was in need of repair.

“We did some work on it the past several weeks,” said Granzotto. “It’s a slight improvement, but if we have any sort of rainfall or snow we are back in the same predicament.”

The avenue, which is used by farmers and homeowners in the area, is open for travel but the water level on either side of it is perhaps a foot from topping the roadway once again. A short distance away, on 30th Street just south of where it intersects 62nd Avenue, more high water is evident. The street was impassable when it went under water following a rainfall this past year.

“We had significant snow this past winter, too,” said Granzotto. “FEMA made a distinction between snowmelt and rain. We could only get help with what you could prove rain caused. There was no awareness from them that there is an accumulation of water.”

As is happening elsewhere in the Minot region, sloughs in Eureka Township are overflowing. In several areas one or more sloughs have joined to form small lakes. Evidence from existing trees and bushes suggests that the high water level exceeds recorded history.

“We are still trying to figure out how do we deal with it? You reach a point where you are in debt with gravel. There is no way to increase tax revenue for us. We are maxed out. We are at the point of where we have to have help from the state in recognizing this is a disaster and most of Ward County is a serious problem,” stated Gronzotto.

The flooded areas that threaten a significant portion of Eureka Township were previously part of a seldom-noticed drainage that caused few problems. For the past three years, though, the drainage has risen to the point where it is now conceivable that the entire drainage could eventually become a single lake rather than a series of small sloughs.

“It doesn’t drain anywhere. It’s just a big low spot. It doesn’t even have a name,” remarked Gronzotto. “It is just filling in and there’s no place for it to go.”

Thus far the damage caused by the high water, other than inconvenience, has been limited to roadways, trees and shrubs. However, the area is thoroughly saturated and poised to rise even further. If that should occur, either from snowmelt or spring rainfall in 2014, there will be little the township can do to help remedy the situation.

“Townships are at a distinct disadvantage. The whole system may have worked at one time when it was only building something once in a while,” said Gronzotto. “It may be impossible for a township to function in this disaster.”