LaMoure County and the city of LaMoure declared flood emergencies on Tuesday, Oct. 15, due to the possibility of high water releases from Jamestown and Pipestem dams. The declaration comes after Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich issued an emergency declaration during a special City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 14.
"There are potential agricultural impacts but there are also other impacts that could affect both the county and the city of LaMoure," said Kimberly Robbins, LaMoure County emergency manager. "The best case scenario, the releases decrease. The worst case scenario, we see again what we went through last spring."
Water levels of the James River in the city of LaMoure were at 15.9 feet on April 4 of this year due to ice jams and high tributary flows.
As of 1:15 p.m. on Oct. 15, the gauge of the James River in the city of LaMoure was 11.8 feet. According to the LaMoure County website, the average level is 7 to 8 feet, with the action stage being at 12 feet. Flood stage is 14 feet, a moderate flood stage is 16 feet and a major flood stage is 18 feet.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing 1,000 cubic feet per second from Jamestown Dam and 800 cfs from Pipestem Dam as of Monday for a combined flow of 1,800 cfs, said Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager.
Bergquist said the 1,800 cfs being released from the two dams is the highest it has been since 2011, when releases were a combined 2,400 cfs.
Robbins said it takes between five and seven days for water released from Pipestem and Jamestown dams to reach LaMoure. Bergquist said since mid-September, Pipestem and Jamestown reservoirs have experienced a high volume of water in both river systems from high precipitation.
"I don't know if I have any (expectations) yet," Bergquist said. "Based on everything we know now it isn't anything different than what we knew about it yesterday."
A public information meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at City Hall in Jamestown, where representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Weather Service, city of Jamestown and Stutsman County Emergency Management are among those expected to attend.
Bergquist said the meeting could reveal what the next step for both counties is.
"We’re putting together a plan to do some minimal sandbagging in some parts of town where we know elevation is low," Bergquist said. "If we don’t end up using the (sandbagging) operation that would be the best news in the world, but we’d at least be prepared for it if we did need to use it.”
Robbins said LaMoure County will be installing a new gauge in the river to measure the flow and elevation of the water. The gauge will be near Adrian, about 30 miles northwest of the city of LaMoure, where a second gauge is located.
"The county website is being updated with flood information constantly," Robbins said. "Hopefully our residents will be informed of what flood stages we will be entering going forward."
Bergquist said time is going to be very valuable moving forward.
“We're trying to be as proactive as we can," Berquist said. "We know they're going to want to release as much water as possible before the freeze-up.”
Bergquist also said saturated soils combining with no frost on the ground could be a potential problem for people living close to the river.
"People that are close to the river may be experiencing higher water tables," Bergquist said. "Some (sump) pumps might be kicking in and starting to work, but others might not. There's no better time to check your sump pumps."
Sump pumps are commonly found in basements where homes are at or below the water table and work to pump groundwater outside of the home automatically, Bergquist said. If the water level is high enough and the pumps aren't working, people can start to see flooding in their basement.
"Seriously, it is a great time to check your pumps," Bergquist said. "It is a very wise thing to do just to check and make sure."
Bergquist said LaMoure may be the only town "highly impacted" by unregulated tributaries adding to the two rivers flowing south from Jamestown.
"LaMoure is affected more than anywhere," Bergquist said. "There could easily be homes along the river where the water might be getting closer. I don't know of any hot spots in particular except for the city of LaMoure."
Bergquist said northern parts of South Dakota could see increases in water levels up until the James River connects with the Missouri River.
"When you get into South Dakota, there gets to be a lot of issues there as well," Bergquist said. "The river has a tendency to spread out quite a bit. Maybe even a half mile or more."
The public information meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at City Hall, 102 3rd Ave. SE, in Jamestown.