Water is being released into the Souris River in both Saskatchewan and North Dakota. Further increases are expected in the coming days. River interests on both sides of the border say they anticipate the releases to last through the coming winter.
Although the amount of water being released is minimal, the flows are considered sufficient enough at this time to draw down Rafferty Reservoir near Estevan, Sask., and Lake Darling, northwest of Minot, to Feb. 1 target levels as prescribed by the International Agreement guiding operation of both Souris River reservoirs.
"Canada has some water to send us, about a 200 cfs average all winter long," said Tom Pabian, Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge manager.
Lake Darling was about six inches above its Feb. 1 target level of 1,596 feet Thursday. Water released through Lake Darling Dam into the Souris River throughout the winter is expected to decrease the level of the lake.
Lake Darling is located within the boundaries of Upper Souris NWR.
As of Thursday, the recording gauge at Baker Bridge, located on the Souris River immediately south of Upper Souris NWR, showed a flow of 98 cfs. According to Pabian, approximately 100 cfs has been flowing through Lake Darling's release structure. That amount is likely to increase to at least 200 cfs in the coming days.
Thursday's flows out of Rafferty Reservoir were slightly less than 100 cfs, but will begin to ramp up.
"They will slowly move to five cubic meters per second (176 cfs) by the end of the month and will be left there until January," said Patrick Boyle, Sask. Water Security Agency, Moosejaw, by e-mail this past Wednesday.
While neither reservoir is considered unusually high for this time of year, the releases are necessary to help insure lower water levels by the Feb. 1 international mandate.
Lake Darling stood at 1,596.48 feet Thursday and must be lowered to 1,596 feet by Feb. 1.
Rafferty, which can hold approximately five times the volume of Lake Darling, was at 1,805.67 feet Thursday. The Feb. 1 target level for Rafferty is 1,802.91 feet.
Alameda Reservoir, which holds back the water of lengthy Moose Mountain Creek just above its juncture with the Souris near Oxbow, Sask., was at 1,843.3 Thursday. As stipulated in the International Agreement, Alameda is to be reduced to 1,840.64 feet by Feb. 1. No water is currently being released from Alameda, but it is anticipated flows from that reservoir will occur this winter. Alameda has approximately the same volume of storage as Lake Darling.
The flow in the Souris at the Sherwood crossing was 99 cfs Thursday. That water is en route to the northern end of Lake Darling.
Following the destructive Souris River flood of 2011, it is expected that all indicators of potential runoff will be closely scrutinized throughout the winter and into the melting season. What is known now is that water on the landscape over much of North Dakota is unprecedented.
"There's tons of surface water out there. I would not expect that to dry up anytime in the next couple of years, even with no precipitation," said Allen Schlag, National Weather Service hydrologist, Bismarck. "It is a fairly safe thing to say that, since the development of this state, there is not a period of time that was this wet."
While wet conditions at this time of year do not necessarily foretell problems with excessive runoff next spring, it has a definite potential to adversely effect 2014 runoff.
"We are certainly in very unfamiliar territory for residents of your area," said Schlag.