Frail North Dakota dam ‘not out of the woods’ from flooding

May 9, 2022 GMT

CAVALIER, N.D. (AP) — An engineer heading planned reconstruction of an aging dam in northeastern North Dakota warned the state’s governor Monday that upcoming rainfall could add pressure to the earthen structure already weakened by flooding.

Zach Hermann, of Fargo-based Houston Engineering, told Gov. Doug Burgum and other state and local officials that he’s hoping the predicted precipitation will be spread out and not affect stabilization efforts on the 65-year-old Bourbanis Dam upstream of Cavalier.

“We’re definitely not out of the woods with Bourbanis Dam yet,” Hermann said.

The dam is meant to protect mostly rural land and only one household has been affected thus far, officials said. Last week, two North Dakota National Guard Black Hawk helicopters dropped more than 200 1-ton sandbags on the Tongue River dam and a Minnesota National Guard Chinook helicopter placed two 5-ton water pumps capable of pumping 4,000 gallons per minute.


Burgum declared a statewide emergency on April 25 after severe spring storms brought heavy rain and snowmelt that swelled creeks and rivers within the Sheyenne and Red River basins and flooded fields and closed some rural roads and state highways. The storms also brought freezing rain and snow to western North Dakota, toppling thousands of utility poles and knocking out power to thousands of residents.

The request for a presidential declaration will be submitted after rivers crest and initial damage assessments are completed. North Dakota’s infrastructure damage threshold for the disaster tag is about $1.3 million statewide, which if granted would unlock federal funding to help cities, counties and townships pay for the cost repairs to utilities, roads and other infrastructure.

“We do expect we should easily meet the threshold,” North Dakota Homeland Security Director Darin Hanson said.