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Dickinson Dam flood plan reviewed

Randy Ehlis, emergency management plan coordinator of the Bismarck Bureau of Reclamation, checks the water pressure with a piezometer Tuesday at the Patterson Lake Dickinson Dam. While officials said it was unlikely the dam would experience flood problems, they met Tuesday at the Law Enforcement Center in Dickinson to review and discuss the emergency action plan and facility security program in case of an emergency.

While there is optimism that the Dickinson Dam won't overflow, city and state officials met Tuesday at the Law Enforcement Center in Dickinson to review plans in case of a flood.

"Talking to the National Weather Service, we are in for more precipitation, but given the levels ... we never know what is going to happen," said Bill Fahlsing, Stark County emergency coordinator. "Looking at Patterson Lake and the Dickinson Dam, it is very unlikely to see any major flooding from the precipitation."

Randy Ehlis, the Bismarck Bureau of Reclamation emergency management plan coordinator, said the required annual orientation meeting was to gather the necessary organizations together and form proper communications.

Ehlis said the Dickinson Dam can hold an elevation of 2,430.6 feet before a probable flood, adding it would be a one-in-a-10,000-year event. Last year the dam recorded its second highest net flows, which peaked at about 3,300 cubic feet per second April 3.

"At 4,500 cfs, you would start seeing water affect some of the houses in the Palm Beach area," he said. "That would be kind of the tipping point."

Ehlis said people were on edge, but there were no major problems last year.

Allen Schlag, a National Weather Service hydrologist in Bismarck, said the spring could be wetter than normal. He said the chances of Dickinson having flood issues were unlikely, but a chance is still there.

"Realistically, it has been a really good winter so far," he said. "However ... we had a lot of snow coming out of the winter (last year), but the reality is both the Missouri and Souris rivers were heavily clobbered by rain. That is still a distinct possibility."

NWS meteorologist Richard Kinney said the average precipitation from 1981 to 2010 for Dickinson was 15.77 inches.

Despite the relatively quiet winter so far, Schlag said North Dakota still has a chance of seeing a "good shot of winter" with snow.

Regardless of the chance of flooding, Fahlsing said residents should stay alert to changing conditions and stay updated through the Bureau of Reclamation, Stark County Office of Emergency Management and local media.