North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and Mississippi Valley Division Commander Maj. Gen. John Peabody dedicated the district’s Tolna Coulee project with a ribbon cutting ceremony July 19. The ceremony was part of a three-day North Dakota tour undertaken by Peabody July 17-19, which also included attending a Devils Lake Executive Committee meeting in Bismarck, N.D., and making stops in Devils Lake, N.D., Minot, N.D., and Valley City, N.D.
Located in the southwest corner of Stump Lake in North Dakota’s Nelson County, the Tolna Coulee project included building an 800-foot structure to control the amount of water flowing from Stump and Devils lakes into the Sheyenne River. It is intended to prevent catastrophic flooding downstream in the event lake levels there continue rising.
Devils Lake began overflowing into Stump Lake in 1999, creating one lake with a combined surface area of nearly 300 square miles. At press time, the lake is at an elevation of 1,452.92 feet. If the lake rises to an elevation of 1,458 feet, it would naturally flow through Tolna Coulee into the Sheyenne, causing significant erosion and an estimated outflow of 14,000 cubic feet per second. This would cause the equivalent of roughly a 500-year flood downstream in Valley City.
The district and its project partner, the North Dakota State Water Commission, constructed the structure in a little more than a year for around $9 million. “The Corps used its advanced measures authority to complete the project, and it did so in record time,” said Peabody. “It shows our commitment to quickly finding reliable, resilient flood risk reduction solutions for the entire Devils Lake basin … and while flooding continues in the basin, we will continue to use the best engineering solutions available to reduce and/or eliminate further flood damages.”
During and after the dedication ceremony, Peabody and Col. Michael Price, district commander, recognized and praised the efforts of the district team that worked on the project. Peabody presented division coins to project manager Bill Csajko and engineering and construction staff Jason Johns and Loren Nishek.
Peabody’s stop in the Minot area included a tour of Lake Darling Dam by U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff and Ed Eaton, hydraulics and hydrology. Then, Lt. Col. Kendall Bergmann, district deputy commander, and Mark Koenig, emergency operations manager, gave the Mississippi River Commission president a tour of Minot’s flooded areas, as well as one of the temporary housing sites built by the district’s housing team during the recovery process. Peabody also made time during the day to meet with a number of local mayors in the area.
The Souris River experienced a flood of record that damaged more than 10,000 homes in the Minot area and caused nearly $700 million in damages in June 2011. Following the flood, the district operated a recovery field office in Minot for more than six months and continues to have staff in the city monitoring contractors working at its housing sites.
In Valley City, which experienced extreme flooding in both 2009 and 2011, Peabody toured the district’s Baldhill Dam and met with district staff there, before taking a tour with Nan Bischoff, project manager, and Sierra Schroeder, planner, both of which are working with the city on a feasibility study for flood risk management. Again, Peabody made time to meet with and listen to the concerns of local officials.