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Published April 26, 2013, 10:31 AM

Grafton, Minto have flood battles of their own

GRAFTON, N.D. (AP) — Crews in the northeastern North Dakota city of Grafton are building an 18-foot levee along the Park River, while high school students in nearby Minto are filling sandbags to hold back the Forest River.

GRAFTON, N.D. (AP) — Crews in the northeastern North Dakota city of Grafton are building an 18-foot levee along the Park River, while high school students in nearby Minto are filling sandbags to hold back the Forest River.

"We're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," Walsh County Emergency Manager Brent Nelson told the Grand Forks Herald.

The Army Corps of Engineers began working on the Grafton levee Wednesday and expects to finish the project Sunday.

"Some people in town are thinking there's not going to be much flooding, because if you look around town and within five miles of town, there's not a lot of snow," Nelson said. "But if you go west, there's still a lot of snow. And it all could start moving this weekend."

The Park River has three branches that converge just outside of Grafton on the way to emptying into the Red River. Grafton and Minto are far enough west that they aren't threatened by Red River flooding.

With warm temperatures expected this weekend, all three branches are likely to hit peak flows at the same time, according to Nelson.

"The mystery is how fast is that water going to come, and how much will soak into the ground," he said.

Nine miles south of Grafton, Minto High School students spent Thursday filling about 3,000 sandbags that were distributed throughout the community to help residents prevent flooding from the Forest River, which flows through the south end of town.

"They're awesome help," Mayor Lane Kelly said of the students. "We couldn't do it without them."

City officials plan to use a balloon-like temporary dike to keep water off U.S. Highway 81 on the south side of town.

Grand Forks, a much larger city on the Red River that was inundated by a record flood in 1997, is protected by a new dike system. However, high waters still affect such things as pedestrian and vehicle bridges, and a greenway recreation area between the dike and the river.

The city on Friday closed a dog park and some trails in the greenway, after the river rose above flood stage of 28 feet. It also opened its emergency operations center.

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