Lisbon hopes to rely more on clay levees“Clay all the way,” is the motto for the upcoming flood fight in Lisbon, N.D. The latest National Weather Service forecast for Lisbon predicts a nearly 50 percent chance the city of 2,200 will see a repeat of the record Sheyenne River crest of 22.8 ft. in 2009.
By: By Dave Roepke, Forum Communications Co. , The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — “Clay all the way,” is the motto for the upcoming flood fight in Lisbon, N.D.
The latest National Weather Service forecast for Lisbon predicts a nearly 50 percent chance the city of 2,200 will see a repeat of the record Sheyenne River crest of 22.8 ft. in 2009.
That means the Highway 27 bridge that connects the city’s east and west sides is bound to close again, said Kevin Baumgard, flood area engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It has to be shut down at 19.5 feet; forecasts say there’s a 90 percent chance of the river going to 19.1 feet.
“It’s going to be almost a sure thing,” he said.
Still, Baumgard and city officials are encouraged by the earlier start the corps is getting. Dike building in Lisbon will start this week, possibly as soon as today, said Mayor Ross Cole.
Last spring, construction of dikes was still ongoing as water was lapping at the feet of the 25-foot levees. An earlier warning, as well as a greater willingness to go right to clay dikes, should prevent a repeat of that, Baumgard said.
Getting a head start will allow contractors to get the levees closer to the river, removing sheds and trees that block their way. That should also limit how often clay is piled on garages and homes to support levees.
No one objected to the corps’ plans at a community meeting on Thursday night, Baumgard said. Last year, there wasn’t time for such a meeting; on occasion, valuable time was wasted when residents insisted on sandbag walls instead of clay levees, he said.
“None of these people had ever seen the river that high,” Baumgard said. “It took a bit of convincing.”
One City Council member at Thursday’s meeting even joked about printing t-shirts that read, “Clay all the way,” Baumgard said.
Cole said the community has been building sandbags the past couple of Saturdays, stocking away thousands of bags for homes in outlying areas, but he agrees that a greater reliance on levees should speed the response.
“Now we know what doesn’t work and what does,” Cole said.
Added infrastructure — such as new gates and valves on storm sewers — should also help reduce street flooding, Cole said. Street floods were a problem in 2009. One plugged manhole downtown blew open.
Plans also call for the levees to be built wider this year, easing the process of raising them if needed, Baumgard said.
Despite the strong chance of seeing a flood similar to the one that took the city by surprise last April, Cole said he’s not worried about burnout among residents.
“Every flood is hard,” he said.
Roepke is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.