No end in sight
RICE LAKE What began as a subtle rising of water in quaint Rice Lake has turned into a watery nightmare for cabin- and home-owners. Once again the roadway that partially rings the lake is being raised. It seems flood weary homeowners can do little to protect their property.
Dirt, clay and sandbag dikes that once held the lake at bay at some residences have either given way or increasing pressure has forced water up through the ground behind the costly protective structures. The result has many Rice Lake residents stressed to their limit and the rise continues.
“You can only fight this so long and you have to make a decision,” said Linda Anderson, a Rice Lake homeowner and member of the Rice Lake board. “People have to ask if they can let their property go, if they can afford to let it go. That’s a huge stress factor for everyone. For some this is their only home. I’m one of them.”
Work crews were busy at Rice Lake Thursday. On the south side of the lake attempts were being made to protect a sewer system from becoming flooded and knocked out of operation. When that fix is complete the road will have to be raised, again.
On the northwest side of the lake water flowing over the roadway had become so deep that vehicle traffic was nearly impossible. A second low spot, one that had not been flooded before, was also covered with water. Dump trucks brought several loads of clay to the watery locations Thursday and a Caterpillar was used to raise the roadway. How long the fixes will last is very much on the minds of Rice Lake homeowners.
“No one can predict if it will come up, stop or come down,” said Anderson. “It just doesn’t stop. It’s a pretty sad deal. It’s devastating. I’ve shed so many tears with people that have lost their homes. What do you say to them?”
The water level at Rice Lake last spring caused several homeowners to abandon their cherished lake front property. Already this spring the lake is estimated to be at least two feet higher than it was at freeze-up last fall and is still rising daily. Rice Lake remained ice-covered Thursday.
“When the ice comes off we don’t know if it will level off or what will happen,” said Steve Zaun, Rice Lake board president. “It’s really a day by day fight right now.”
Further complicating problems, even for those whose homes are above the water level, is a deep frost that has pushed decks away from homes and caused some homes to shift enough to where cracks are appearing.
“My personal opinion is that there’s so much pressure in the ground,” said Anderson. “Everybody gets nervous and is stressed out about it.”
All property owners along Rice Lake have received a letter requesting their participation in a sandbagging effort this Saturday at 9 a.m. Ward County Emergency Management was contacted to help raise volunteers to help with the sandbag fill. Minot’s Mid-Dakota Chapter of the Red Cross will assist by feeding those who show up to help on Saturday.
According to Anderson, the volunteers will be asked to fill sandbags for the purpose of stockpiling them near the lake, making the sandbags available for use as necessary in the days and weeks ahead.
To date, up to 40 homes at Rice Lake are believed to have been destroyed by rising water. According to Zaun, another 30 to 40 homes are in jeopardy if the lake rises another 12 inches.