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North Dakota dam, fortified by sandbags, seems to be holding

May 5, 2022 GMT

WALHALLA, N.D. (AP) — An aging earthen dam in a rural area of northeastern North Dakota besieged by high waters was holding Thursday after National Guard members placed 213 sandbags weighing 1 ton each, local officials said.

The Bourbanis Dam is a high-hazard flood control structure in Cavalier County that like many around the country is long overdue for repairs. About 50 Guard members worked through Wednesday afternoon to help stabilize the structure with bags transported and lowered by UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The dam is mainly meant to protect agricultural land and there’s only one household in the immediate inundation area, said LuAnn Kemp, spokeswoman for the Pembina County Water Resource District, which owns the dam. However, she said there’s more flood fighting to be done.

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“There is still flow going over that emergency spillway area,” Kemp said. “Pumps will be brought in tonight to start drawing the level down.”

The 61-foot Bourganis Dam was built in 1957 with a design life of 50 years, according to information in a watershed rehabilitation plan for three dams slated for upgrades along the Tongue River.

Zach Hermann, project manager for a Fargo-based company hired to develop the rehab plan, did not immediately respond to phone messages seeking comment.