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Water board tables dam study

April 10, 2012

The Baldhill Creek, shown feeding into western Lake Ashtabula, is the prospective site for a proposed dry dam that would significantly reduce inflows in the lake during flooding.

BALDHILL CREEK, N.D. – The Barnes County Water Resource District Board tabled a discussion on supporting a proposed study for a dry dam on the Baldhill Creek after hearing from several landowners in that area who opposed it.

The Baldhill Creek site and another near Cooperstown were identified last summer in a study conducted by West Fargo-based Moore Engineering as two sites that could retain a significant amount of water from entering Ashtabula Lake, which lies upstream from Valley City, behind the Baldhill Dam.

The Lower Sheyenne River Joint Water Board approached the Barnes County water board for support in the study, which would cost about $16,000. The Cooperstown site study would cost roughly the same, but the Upper Sheyenne River Joint Water Board and area residents came out against a dry dam in that location.

Barnes County water board member Pat Hurley expressed intentions to meet with the landowners in the Baldhill Creek area as well as representatives from Barnes Rural Water, Moore Engineering, Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad company and Lower Sheyenne board members. However, the study would have to be conducted first so particulars of the structure could be explored in detail, and Mike Opat of Moore Engineering said soil samples may show that the dam cannot be constructed.

“What we need to figure out is how big we can actually build it – if it all – and then look at the impacts,” said Opat.

A dry dam has a passage that allows usual flows of water through, but holds excess water back as it accumulates beyond normal ranges.
According to Moore Engineer’s water detention study, the Baldhill Creek dry dam would reduce the Sheyenne River level in Valley City, Fort Ransom and Lisbon by a foot during 50- and 100-year floods and significantly cut the flow of water by a few thousand cubic feet per second.

However, when coupled with the Cooperstown site, flows during a 50-year flood would be reduced by about 3.5 feet.

Barnes County Commissioner John Froelich said the commission supported studying both sites, or none at all.

“We do not support the study on Baldhill Creek if it isn’t going to be done on Cooperstown,” he said. “The cost is minimal on Cooperstown also, and obviously as you can hear, the people on Baldhill Creek aren’t in favor of it... There’s farmers below Baldhill Dam plus homeowners outside Valley City that get their entire farmsteads flooded. This would be huge if both of them were done, and it would mean millions of dollars in Valley City when you’re talking from 7,000 (cfs) to 4,000(cfs).”

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