Releases could range between 750 to 1,600 cfs from Jamestown, Pipestem reservoirs

Officials discussed operations of Jamestown and Pipestem reservoirs.

water outlet area jamestown dam 041123.jpg
Fishing enthusiasts stand on the shorelines of the James River on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, near the water outlet for the Jamestown Dam. Combined releases are at 67 cfs with 50 cfs from Jamestown Reservoir and 17 cfs from Pipestem.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

JAMESTOWN — Combined releases from Jamestown and Pipestem reservoirs could range anywhere between 750 and 1,600 cubic feet per second this year with the current snowpack, soil conditions and average rainfall in April, May and June, according to Alex Flanigan, water manager of Pipestem Dam for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Given the fact that we have a large snowpack but then we also have very dry soils and very warm soils, we have a very uncertain range of flows at this point,” Flanigan said. “We could end up with flows on the higher end of the flow regime or flows on more of the middle of the road really depending on how quickly that snow melts and how much the soils can absorb in this … drier soil and warmer soil scenario that we have this year.”

Combined releases are at 67 cfs with 50 cfs from Jamestown Reservoir and 17 cfs from Pipestem.

water flowing one 041123.jpg
Flowing water drops out of sight under a bank of snow as seen Tuesday, April 11, 2023, in northwest Jamestown. Higher temperatures have been causing the snow and ice to melt in the region bringing on spring.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

State and local officials discussed operations of Jamestown and Pipestem reservoirs on Tuesday, April 11, at a meeting hosted by the Bureau of Reclamation in Jamestown. Flanigan said input was gathered on the use of water in the James River from the different state and local agencies.

“This year since there’s so much snow on the ground it’s more flood centric, but in drier years it’s more about what to do with water conservation, water availability and different uses,” he said.


Stutsman County Andrew Kirking said he is worried about surface water and closing gravel roads in the county that are washed out. He said the road conditions in Stutsman County will need to be monitored.

“We are concerned about any gravel road out there whether that’s going to somebody’s residence or one of these days farmers will get into the fields, and we just want to be aware of where these inundated roads are so that we can mark them accordingly, route responders accordingly and get them fixed up this spring,” Kirking said Thursday, April 13.

He said Stutsman County Highway 63 is closed between Ypsilanti and Montpelier. He also said four or five other roads are closed in townships in the county.

“Most of them are on the east side of the county,” he said. “We do have one out in the Medina-Cleveland area.”

Kirking said the Jamestown area is “very fortunate” right now that the soils are dry and absorbing the moisture from the snowmelt. He said the lower temperatures are giving time for the moisture to absorb into the soil.

LaMour County along with the cities of Marion, LaMoure, Kulm and Edgeley have already made flood declarations, said Kimberly Robbins, LaMoure County emergency manager. She said the city of LaMoure made the flood declaration when the flood forecast went to 80% to reach minor flood stage and protective measures need to be put in place.

“That's why it was important to attend this meeting to discuss what the releases will be and their plan for that,” she said.

She said LaMoure County has some overland and closed-basin flooding with the significant snow-water-equivalent values in the area. She said the city of Marion is a closed-basin area where sandbagging efforts began Tuesday.


“We will also be reevaluating what we need to bring their emergency levee up to,” she said. “ … We will look at construction, dirt work on the levee versus sandbags versus Tiger Dam options for increasing that emergency levee.”

marion sandbag operation 041123.jpg
A crew sets up and learns how to use a Megga Bagger on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, in Marion, N.D. Volunteers started preparing sandbags for any potential flooding in the area.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

A closed basin is a basin draining to some depression or pond within its area from which water is lost only by evaporation or percolation, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website. The website says it’s a basin without a surface outlet for precipitation falling precipitation.

Robbins said the LaMoure County area has around 6 to 9 inches more of snow-water equivalent than the Jamestown area.

“That’s a significant amount for a closed basin,” she said. “Marion also had additional rainfall last year, which they do have dry soils, they have warm soils but maybe not quite as dry as some of the other places on the James River Valley.”

Robbins said if the combined releases from Jamestown and Pipestem reservoirs can be kept to the lower end during a high-flow year, “it’s much appreciated for everybody downstream.”

Flanigan said once the combined releases from Jamestown and Pipestem reservoirs reach around 1,200 cfs, there will start to be “nuisance” items such as not getting all wastewater runoff into the James River.

“(There might be) puddles in certain places where normally the water can go into the drain and get into the river,” he said. “Those might start to back up and leave puddles in different parts of town. There is also a lot more pumping that has to go on to get water maybe into the river if it rains.”

Once the combined releases are at 1,800 cfs, he said that’s when the impacts of all the water going through Jamestown can start to be seen.


“You have to get closer to and above 1,800 cfs to where you start seeing where they are doing sandbag levees and small levees around town,” Flanigan said.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
What To Read Next
Get Local