The timetable for the amount of water to be released into the Souris River through the gates at Lake Darling Dam has changed. Releases were increased from 70 cubic feet per second to 150 cfs on Wednesday, and then bumped up to 250 cfs Thursday.
The latest increase was not expected to occur until late today or sometime this coming weekend.
"Within two days or so the water should show up at Burlington," said Tom Pabian, Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge manager, Wednesday morning. "The ice on the river slows it down a little bit."
Today is the deadline for permanent ice fishing houses to be removed from all state waters. Most of the ice houses on two popular ice fishing destinations, Lake Aubudon and Lake Darling, were removed earlier this week. Drifting and hard-packed snow can make retrieval of some ice houses difficult. Fishermen who do not remove their ice houses by today’s deadline are subject to fines. State regulations require that all fish houses must be constructed of a material that allows them to float. Temporary ice houses may still be used after today’s deadline but must be removed from the ice daily.
According to Pabian, the releases are in response to "new information that is coming in and the potential of heavy snow that's coming in."
New information referred to by Pabian is the amount of water being released from Rafferty and Alameda reservoirs in Saskatchewan and the flow in the Souris River at Sherwood confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey earlier this week. Heavy snow, ranging from eight to 10 inches over the Souris River Basin through Saturday, remains in the forecast and will likely add to runoff entering the Souris. However, the risk of flooding still remains very low.
"The hydrologic forecast is still projected as normal as normal can be," said Pabian.
Rafferty began releasing 245 cfs Thursday, up from 106 cfs previously. Alameda releases are minimal, a scant 35 cfs. The flow at the Sherwood gauging station, where the Souris enters North Dakota, was certified by the USGS at 36 cfs last Tuesday but has increased slightly since that time.
Barring the possibility of ice jams, the Souris is expected to remain well within its banks this spring. The latest releases may have the desired effect of breaking up river ice so that future releases, if needed, will not be impeded.
The level of Lake Darling was 1,596.04 feet Thursday. The lake's customary summer operating level is 1,597 feet, a level not expected to be reached until late April or perhaps into May. Rafferty and Alameda reservoirs have been drawn down to prescribed levels to accommodate spring runoff.
The effect of increased flow in the Souris could become evident along the river in Minot as early as next week. Even if the river appears ice covered, people are cautioned that river ice is becoming increasingly weak due to greater flows and longer periods of sunshine.