Mouse River Park is a king-sized mess
Posted 7/12/11 (Tue)
By Caroline Downs
“It’s just a king-sized mess,” said Darrell Iverson, caretaker of Mouse River Park, as he talked about the aftermath of the Mouse River flood on the popular recreational site in Renville County.
The Park flooded just days before the Mouse River roared through Minot as unprecedented releases of water came from the Rafferty, Alameda and Boundary reservoirs in southern Saskatchewan the third week of June. Several county officials coordinated efforts with members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the park with additional sandbagging efforts on June 20 and 21st, but the rapidly increasing flows came too quickly.
Members of the Renville County Water Resource Board made the decision on June 22nd, in conjunction with Renville County Emergency Manager Kristi Titus and the Renville County Sheriff’s Department, to pull the pumps and open the gates at the Park’s south end. That action allowed water to backfill the Park and help equalize pressure from the river’s current. “Water was starting to come over the dike at the north side then,” said Jim Burbidge, chairman of the Renville County Water Resource Board.
Burbidge said the Park’s pump is safely stored out of the flood zone and that both flood control structures in the Park appear to have survived the onslaught of water. The dike may be in decent condition, too. In fact, the sandbags placed along the length of the dike may have served to stabilize and protect the structure.
Water filled the Park quickly that day and reached depths ranging from 6 to 16 feet, according to Iverson, with the deepest water seen at the south end of the campground behind the picnic shelters. Iverson estimated the average high water depth in the Park’s center, around the bar, gazebo and cafe, was about six feet.
“It’s going down, but it’s been pretty slow lately,” he said Tuesday morning. “The average now might be 24 to 30 inches. I don’t know if you’d find anything much shallower than that.”
Burbidge noted the gauge readings at the stoplog structure showed a river elevation of 1604.4 on the river side and 1602.95 on the Park side as of Monday, with a river flow rate of 8,000 cubic feet per second. “It’s still in a major flood mode,” he said.
The Park remains closed with the roads barricaded, as monitored by the Renville County Sheriff’s Department.
Several steps before
clean-up can begin
Iverson and Burbidge realize that Park residents are anxious to return to their cabin sites and assess damages, but several steps must take place before access to the Park will be granted. Iverson explained the Army Corps of Engineers will have to inspect the dike first and declare it stable.
Iverson walked the dike on Friday with Mark Cook of the Renville County Water Board and reported the top part of the dike to be firming up while the sides remained soft and saturated.
“When the dike gets firm enough, then we can start thinking about moving the pump back in,” said Burbidge, “but the integrity of the dike as a whole looks pretty good. It’s not as bad as we were fearing, especially with the flows coming as strong as they were for a while.”
Iverson said he noticed a great deal of debris from the Park that drifted downriver onto the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge. “A bunch of mine is out there, I could see that,” he said. “I found one of my planters from the gazebo at the south side with the flowers still in there, blooming away!”
He noted the bridge will also have to be inspected and declared safe before anyone could enter the Park.
“Then we’ll have to get a bathroom up and running,” he said, adding that the cafe would be the most likely spot to start with the plumbing work. “The septic systems will have to have the tanks pumped. I’m sure they’re full of water.”
And, like the flooded areas in Minot, the Park’s electrical system will also have to be inspected and cleared before residents can return. “It’s going to be a long, drawn-out process,” Iverson said.
Rain has delayed that process. Iverson said he’d heard reports of as much as 3 to 3.50 inches of rain falling in the area around the Park on Friday. “One and three-quarters inches is the least I’ve heard anybody say,” he added.
Burbidge advised Park residents to be patient through the safety inspections and pumping work that have yet to be completed. “We’ve got to be safe, too,” he said. “And we don’t want to pump the water out too fast, because that could do damage to the buildings.”
He reassured residents and visitors that work to clear the Park would begin as soon as possible. “We can’t let something like this stop us,” he said, “and we’ll do our part to help everybody get rolling ahead.”