For months prior to the Knife River going over it's banks last week, Hazen City Commissioners and planners have been discussing possibilities and ideas of how to handle a flood similar to Mercer County's flood of 1997. Now that the damage is done with major flooding in Beulah last week and to a lesser extent in Hazen, some of those same officials met last Friday to discuss further changes needed, if any, to the city's flood plan. Though most of the events discussed were part of a specific pattern the 2009 flood created, officials suggest a quick melt as early as this weekend could create another possible flood threat. Hazen City Commissioner Mike Peterson said there are still at least two known ice jams on the Knife River near Hazen and a lot of snowmelt still to come down the Antelope Creek drainage from the northwest, which could affect portions of the north half of town. Adding that to the 4 inches from Monday's snowstorm, fellow Hazen City Commissioner Ken Link addressed the issue of added moisture content within the snow accumulation. He said in 1997 there was a record of 1.8 inches of moisture in the snow. In 2009, recordings showed 5.7 inches of moisture in the snow.
On the morning of March 24, 2009, the Knife River was higher than it had ever been. Edwin Oster could tell by the post of his mailbox. "It was just about halfway up the post," Oster said Wednesday morning. "There's still a chunk of ice hanging on it." To back up Oster's observation, United States Geological Survey personnel measured the Knife River at 31.4 feet Tuesday morning in Hazen - over 4 feet higher than the river's measured crest in Hazen on March 23, 1997. The measurement might have been skewed by ice jams, however, as Hazen emergency workers measured the river's crest at 27.26 - still above the mark set in 1997.
The people have spoken - in Hazen, anyway. The Hazen City Commission reviewed results of a survey Monday evening that gauged residents' feelings on the city establishing a municipal natural gas utility, as well as if the resident would consider signing up for natural gas service. For the city of Hazen to get natural gas, the utility must be owned by the city. With 303 surveys returned, 54 percent responded yes, they would be in favor of the city establishing a municipal natural gas utility. Though when asked if they would consider such a service in their own home, 58 percent said no. The most common reason cited for not using the service was that they are already using electric heat in their home. Although the results were not the 60 percent approval the commission previously said would convince Major Pipelines L.L.C., of Grand Rapids, Mich., to build - Hazen City Planner Steve Frovarp said the company representatives still seemed optimistic. "They reported they had financing all lined up to go before survey results were in," Frovarp said. "They think that they might be able to convince more once they're here." In fact, Frovarp said Major Pipelines representatives said that they secured $12-$15 million for the project in the last few weeks. Construction and installation costs were tentatively noted to be $2.5 million for Hazen and Beulah each, and another $5 million to get pipeline up and running - which would be split between the two communities.
If your home flooded in 1997 you should be prepared to have water issues again this year. "In a moderate melt the homes that had trouble in '97 are going to experience problems again," Mercer County Emergency Manager Richard Sorenson said.
The county was banking on big bank - but the funds fell short in the federal stimulus package, leaving them to abandon the shovel-ready summer project scheduled for County Road 20 west of Beulah. In original estimates, county engineers were forecasting around $350,000 from President BarackObama's $787 billion federal stimulus package for the project. The actual check came in written for $238,600, said Steve Mamer of Interstate Engineering.
It wasn't his birthday - at least that he knew of, anyway, joked Reuben Gutsche, Hazen. But he knew there had to be some special explanation for why he counted 15 pink flamingos milling about his front-yard snow banks Thursday morning. There was a special explanation, indeed. The pink, plastic lawn ornaments are part of a local fundraising effort to find a cure for multiple sclerosis. The notoriously noble effort is the doing of Lorisa Newman, Ha
Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives and contracted engineers visited Hazen city officials last Wednesday to report that the State Highway 200 Bypass running through Hazen would most likely no longer classify as a levee. For the citizens of Hazen, the news could be a kick to the wallet.
The full extent of joys and letdowns has yet to be seen, but the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been passed by Congress - and the Hazen City Commission is hopeful it will help them purchase and install new water meters. In a meeting of the commission Monday evening, the commission approved a letter requesting placement on the Drinking Water Project Priority List and $215,000 from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for installation of new water meters that will replace outdated meters throughout Hazen.
About five years ago, it cost Mercer County $100,000-125,000 per mile to completely overlay a highway such as County Highway 21, which runs north of Beulah for about 10 miles from its intersection with State Highway 200 to State Highway 1806. That's chump change. Now, that estimate is at $250,000 per mile, according to Steve Mamer of Interstate Engineering. That leaves a 10-mile overlay project estimated to cost a cool $2.5 million.
Recent warm temperatures may have cleared the frost from the Hazen City Commission's crystal ball. In reaction to recent warm temperatures and rain that have already caused water to leak into a few garages and basements, the commission approved the purchase of 10,000 sandbags and reviewed the city's flood insurance policy at their regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening.