Engineers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, trained a group of local volunteers in Valley City, North Dakota, April 29, ahead of forecast flooding within the community.
Luke Schmidt and Adam Gamblin, both St. Paul District geotechnical engineers, are supporting the city’s flood fight efforts and have been monitoring the temporary levee construction. The nearly 8,000 linear feet of temporary levees were placed at eight locations within the city by the Corps of Engineers’ contractor Strata Corporation, from Grand Forks, North Dakota. The work was completed April 26, but the need to monitor the temporary levees continues.
Schmidt said the Corps of Engineers is actively assisting the local community by providing technical assistance when it comes to evaluating the temporary levees constructed during this year’s flood fight. He said the levees, constructed in a mere three days, include around 27,000 cubic yards of material.
Valley City is a home away from home for Schmidt. He said he’s very familiar with the city having supported previous flood fights in 2009 and 2011.
“Helping a community during a flood is one of the best parts about my job,” said Schmidt. “Being able to do what I can to reduce the risk of a flood within the community is what it is all about.”
To that end, Schmidt said he and Gamblin taught a group of 125 community volunteers what to look for while monitoring temporary levees. The volunteers took that knowledge, some safety equipment such as a life jacket, flashlight and high visibility vest, and started walking the levees Friday, April 29. One of the first groups to volunteer was Valley City Mayor Dave Carlsrud and Valley City Commissioner Dick Gulmon.
Gamblin said the training sessions focused on four areas. He said the areas included:
Seepage,which occurs when water penetrates through or under a levee. If water is spotted, Gamblin said it’s important to note the color of the water. “Dirty colored water may indicate material is being lost within the levee,” he said. “Clear water is normal but requires additional monitoring.” He also said that seepage can appear far away from the levee.
Levee stability involves ensuring the levee is not moving or changing shape. He said temporary levees can slide or collapse with little warning.
Cracks can be observed while monitoring a levee. He said he recommended marking the location and size of the crack and then reporting it to the appropriate local official.
Scour is a condition that is usually found on the river side of the levee and is caused by flows removing material from the temporary levee. Gamblin said that if scouring is detected, volunteers should contact local officials for additional evaluations.
Gamblin said the key thing to remember when looking at levees is the fact that each levee system is unique. “The most important thing to look for is change,” he said. “Is there a crack where there wasn’t one before? Has a crack increased in length or width? Is there a wet area that was dry before?”
It’s also important to remember that temporary levees usually have rough edges and the use of a life jacket while near these levees is highly encouraged.