State watches wells for flooding

WILLISTON The warmer temperatures and melting snow in recent days have caused flooding problems at well sites in the confluence area of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers.

State officials are monitoring about 50 wells in the confluence area, an area southwest of Williston and east of the North Dakota-Montana border where the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers join.

Alison Ritter, public information officer for the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck, said about seven well locations had water, according to her most recent update Thursday afternoon. She said the wells have been shut in so they are not producing.

Dennis Fewless, director of the Division of Water Quality for the North Dakota Department of Health in Bismarck, said in a news release that the flooding is the result of ice jams downstream from the well sites.

Ritter said that on Monday, the Mineral Resources Department contacted operators to prepare in case flooding occurred by shutting in wells and emptying any tanks that needed such measures.

The owners of the well sites have been monitoring the wells by air and boat for the past several days. At one site, containment booms were deployed as a precaution, state officials said.

State inspectors have not been able to reach the sites by land, but are continuing to monitor the situation, Fewless said.

Ritter said about half of the 50 wells being monitored have access issues such as road closures.

About 17 miles of the Yellowstone River flows through North Dakota before it joins the Missouri River at the area called the confluence.

Ice jams have been a problem on the Yellowstone River and other rivers in Montana in past days due to the warmer temperatures and melting snow.

Earlier this week, a helicopter and its crew from the 91st Missile Wing’s 54th Helicopter Squadron at Minot Air Force Base were called to rescue two men from an ice jam.

The men, both of Savage, Mont., were caught Monday night when the water of the Yellowstone River began rising too quickly around their pickup while they were checking the river. Savage is a community about 48 miles southwest of the confluence area.

National Weather Service forecasters have been urging Montana residents this week that due to the higher temperatures that could increase the runoff from melting snow and cause rivers to rise.