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Extra precautions being taken as water levels rise in central ND

BISMARCK—Local municipalities are taking extra precautions as water levels in the Missouri River continue to rise as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increases releases from Garrison Dam.

On Thursday, the Morton County Parks and Recreation Department closed a boat ramp on the Missouri River as a result of the rising waters, which extended onto the ramp's blacktop. The same day, Burleigh County Emergency Management opened two self-filling sandbagging sites in Bismarck, and Morton County also opened a sandbagging site southwest of Mandan.

Gov. Doug Burgum spoke Thursday morning with Col. John L. Hudson, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Omaha District. In a news release, Burgum said he urged the corps to "clearly and promptly communicate change in the amount of water being released from the Garrison Dam" after targeted flows were increased Wednesday from 52,000 cubic feet per second to 60,000 cfs — or 13 feet — by Saturday.

"With memories of the historic 2011 flood still fresh in the minds of many residents, it's crucial that the Army Corps of Engineers carefully manage the flows up and down the system and promptly inform residents of changes in Garrison Dam releases and forecasted river levels so citizens can plan accordingly," Burgum said in a statement.

Barring a significant, sustained rain event, the corps indicated it is "reasonably confident" that the 60,000 cfs release rate should be sufficient to maintain Lake Sakakawea levels within the reservoir's Exclusive Flood Control Zone, the governor said in the news release.

Officials have said a 13-foot river level in Bismarck is expected to have minimal impact on homes and infrastructure, but will likely cause additional shoreline erosion and could create drainage issues and wet basements for homeowners.

Bismarck city officials are currently on notice, as required by the city Flood Response and Action Plan. Burleigh County Emergency Management has opened two sandbagging sites.

Morton County and Burleigh County commissioners also are monitoring water levels and consulting with North Dakota Game and Fish Department regarding a potential "idle speed only" declaration for a defined stretch of the Missouri River, according to a news release from Morton County.