Swallowed by the river
BY ALYSSA MEIER
Shorelines, residential lawns and boat docks were swallowed up by rising waters this week, as increased releases from the Garrison Dam deepened the Missouri River in Washburn by over two feet in seven days.
In response to a higher-than-average amount of snowfall melt and rain running into Lake Sakakawea, releases from the Garrison Dam grew from 44,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 60,000 cfs last week. The gradual increase began on June 18, with the Missouri River sitting three inches higher by the end of that first day.
As the week went on, the increased release rates would continue to feed the river, lifting it over two feet by Monday. From the morning of June 18 to June 25, the level of the Missouri at Washburn would go from 13.65 to 15.8 feet -- a 27-inch rise over the course of seven days.
The rapid change in the river’s height has startled some locals, like Bruce and Karen Winn, who live on the shore of the river south of Washburn. The Winns pulled out docks and benches last week as waters started to rise, but one dock was buried beneath the river’s surface before the couple could remove it. The poles of the dock protrude from the water, which sits five-to-ten feet closer to the Winns’ home than it did a week ago.
In some areas of the Winns’ yard, the river swallowed closer to 20 feet. A cottonwood sapling planted a couple weeks ago is an island now, swimming in several inches of water, yards from the lawn that is soft and swollen with moisture. A square of blocks that housed a bench where the couple would sit and gaze at the river is completely covered in water. Two feet from the sitting area lays a fallen cottonwood trunk that drifted onto the lawn.
The couple hopes they’ve seen the worst of the rising river for this year, a sentiment shared by Eileen Williamson of the Army Corps of Engineers.