<< All News Thursday, February 29, 2024 - 03:09pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today received a commitment from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce flows from Garrison Dam upstream of an ice jam causing minor flooding on the Missouri River in Bismarck-Mandan, as state agencies coordinated with local and federal partners on a whole-of-government response. 

Shortly before 3 p.m., the North Dakota National Guard launched an aerial operation to try to dislodge the ice jam. 

“The North Dakota National Guard will utilize a mass water delivery system, the Bambi Bucket, suspended from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to drop 660 gallons of river water on the leading edge of the ice jam,” said Lt. Col. Matthew J. Voeller, Director of Domestic Plans and Operations. “The weight of the water is estimated to be around 5,000 lbs. This process will be repeated a number of times in order to eventually free the jam.”

A temporary flight restriction will be issued for the area of operation, covering an area approximately 3 miles wide by 4 miles long, centered over the river from Expressway Bridge to about 1.5 miles south of the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery. Only approved emergency operations aircraft are allowed to fly in the restricted airspace. The use of drones in this area is restricted to emergency services approved aircraft only.

Gov. Burgum also signed an executive order this afternoon declaring an emergency for Burleigh and Morton counties and activating the North Dakota State Emergency Operations Plan. All state agencies, including the North Dakota National Guard, are directed to maintain high readiness and provide appropriate levels of flood response resources.

An additional measure involving applying material to the ice jam to accelerate melting is still being evaluated. More information will be released as it becomes available.

The major ice jam near Fox Island and the Heart River confluence south of Bismarck caused the Missouri River to rise rapidly Wednesday, flooding low-lying areas along the shoreline. The river level exceeded minor flood stage of 14.5 feet at the Bismarck gauge near the Main Avenue bridge at around 9 a.m. today and was at 14.92 feet at 1:15 p.m.

State, local and federal officials including representatives of the Governor’s Office, Department of Emergency Services (DES), Department of Water Resources, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Transportation, North Dakota National Guard, National Weather Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Burleigh and Morton counties met Wednesday night and this morning at DES headquarters at Fraine Barracks in Bismarck to coordinate a response to the ice jam flooding. Water Resources and the North Dakota Highway Patrol have been flying drones over the ice jam to gauge the situation Wednesday and today.

“We are monitoring this situation closely and taking a whole-of-government approach to protecting lives and property on the Missouri River in Bismarck-Mandan,” Burgum said. “We appreciate the cooperation of our local, state and federal partners as we respond to this rapidly developing situation.”

In phone calls last night and this morning, Burgum, Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, director of DES and adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard, and Water Resources Director Andrea Travnicek pressed Army Corps of Engineers officials to reduce flows from Garrison Dam upstream of the ice jam to help prevent further rises in the river level. The Corps said it is prioritizing flood control operations and that it would reduce the daily average flow from 25,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Wednesday to 22,000 cfs today and 19,000 cfs on Friday. The hydroelectric dam normally releases less water at night and more water during the day when more electricity is needed to meet demand. Corps officials noted it will take a couple of days for Bismarck-Mandan to see the impacts of reduced releases from the dam. 

For updates on flooding and other major events, visit www.NDResponse.gov

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