Less than 12 months after a flood that led to a presidential disaster declaration, new flooding occurred over the weekend on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation and in Hill County, with flooding continuing on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and the level of the Milk River rising in Blaine County.
Gov. Brian Schwitzer last week requested a presidential disaster declaration, which at that time had excluded Hill County and Rocky Boy, both of which were declared federal disaster areas last summer.
Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Joe
Parenteau said, with the damage over the weekend, Federeal Emergency
Management Agency representatives will be in the county Tuesday to start
a predisaster evaluation, part of a statewide evaluation.
Flooding Friday and Saturday led to roads being washed out on Rocky Boy, including a mudslide putting debris on Laredo Road near the reservation agency.
Bobbi Favel, transportation director for the Chippewa Cree Tribe, said this morning that the situation seemed to have improved by today, with crews out stabilizing the conditions.
“Most of the water seems to be receding,” she said. “We don’t know what will happen with the next few days.”
The National Weather Service has flood warnings through the region including Hill, Blaine and Chouteau counties and a flood watch in Liberty County. The forecast calls for rain or rain showers and thunderstorms through the week, including heavy rain forecast Tuesday.
Parenteau said this morning that the water that led to Hill County commissioners closing Beaver Creek Park to recreation late Friday morning had hit the lower creek by late Friday or early Saturday, leading to flooding on the creek including flooding the Beaver Creek Golf Course.
By Sunday morning that seemed to peak and it had started to recede, he said, although what will happen with the rainfall the rest of the week remains to be seen.
In Blaine and Phillips counties, flooding is continuing on Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, although the condition had stabilized in the Hays and Lodge Pole areas, which flooded three weekends ago.
Avis Spencer, the public information officer for the Fort Belknap Indian Community, said several homes in the northeastern corner of the reservation, near Dodson, continue to be surrounded by water.
The level of the Milk River is near flood stage between Harlem and the Fort Belknap Agency, which could lead to evacuation of several families who live on the reservation in the river valley, she said.
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Spencer said.
Blaine County Commissioner Vic Miller said county officials are watching the level of the Milk River very closely. It, and its tributaries, generally were not out of their banks as of this morning, although there is some lowland flooding.
Additional rain forecast in the next few days could change that, he said.
“Another two inches is not going to help,” Miller said.
Parenteau said that, due to the high level of the Milk River, the last gate at the Bullhook discharge was closed and water was being pumped into the river.
The water, including storm drain water that flows into Bullhook, normally flows into the river, but if the level of the river rises too high, water will flow back into the creek.
Parenteau said the pumps will be used until the level of the river drops enough to open the gates back up and allow gravity flow into the Milk.
Parenteau said the dams on Hill County creeks did their jobs well and held up through the high levels. On Rocky Boy, the East Fork and Bonneau dams held up, as did the dams at Bear Paw Lake and Beaver Creek Reservoir.
He said that, over the weekend, the level at Beaver Creek Reservoir was the highest recorded, with water flowing over the emergency spillway.
That water is diverted into a temporary storage facility before it flows back into the creek, Parenteau said.
“It is a well-designed dam,” he said “It was amazing to watch it work.”
The level had dropped by Sunday evening and water no longer was going over the emergency spillway, he said.
Beaver Creek Park remains closed to recreation until further notice, although the highway is open.
Parenteau said people are urged to stay off the side roads in the park and to stay away from streams and lakes.
“There has been so much moisture, there’s no way of knowing how undercut any of the banks are,” he said.