February 15, 2013

The F word

We still have a long way to go until spring in North Dakota, but our previously dry winter has taken a dramatic turn in the last few weeks, and unfortunately that means we have to start thinking about the possibility of a flood, albeit probably a small one.

While we still don't have a whole awful lot of snow on the ground in Grand Forks (probably about 12"-14" if you can find a non wind affected area), areas near Fargo and to the south have closer to 24"-30" on the ground, and that snow contains about 2"- 4" of water.  Of course our watershed is backwards since the Red River runs north, so the more snow down South at the beginning of our watershed, the more flow hits us at the worst time in the spring.

An updated snow depth map from February 14th.

I love maps, especially 3D ones.  This map gives an awesome demonstration of the Red River valley watershed and how
incredibly flat the terrain is.  The Red River falls at a rate of less than 1 foot per mile on its trek to Lake Winnipeg.

After doing some research on Wikipedia about this river, I realized that during my time in the golf business, I have now worked on and been responsible for water draining off my golf course and into the 3 different watersheds that make up North America.  During my time near Vail Colorado the golf course drained into the Colorado River watershed, which of course makes its way to the Pacific Ocean.  My time in Big Sky Montana was in a watershed that ended up in the Missouri River, which feeds the Mississippi River and then into the Atlantic Ocean.  And now, the water from the Grand Forks Country Club feeds into the Red River, to Lake Winnipeg, and eventually into the Hudson Bay, which is considered part of the Arctic Ocean.

There are still a lot of variables left to determine the fate of our flood season this spring.  Most notably of course is how much more snow we might get in the coming weeks, how fast the snow melts in the spring, and if that melt occurs early in the spring or late.  Another important factor working in our favor is the lingering drought from last summer, especially to the south, which left the ground dry last fall and able to soak up more moisture during the melt this spring.

Next week the Hydrologic Prediction Service will issue an updated flooding forecast for this spring.  As of our last prediction on January 21st, based on the conditional simulation we stood about a 12% chance of cresting over 35 feet.  Although flood stage begins at 28', I consider 35' the mark at which point the golf course really begins to be affected by the flooding.  I would expect that the forecast that comes out next week will raise that percentage a decent bit....

On the plus side, we are still in a drought, so the moisture is a good thing.  Unfortunately, this Valley has shown that there is a very fine line between too much water and not enough.  The summer of 2011 brought us a summer flood crest of 36' in the end of June, and by the end of the Fall only 3 months later we were already considered to be in the beginning of a our current drought.

One last note, Andy and I finally finished working on our tractor mounted slit seeder used for reseeding the course in the event of a large flood.  I am not sure of the exact year of this unit, but it was in pretty rough shape.  Both of the wheel axles were bent (I am assuming from someone seeding too close too a tree and hitting the trunk), bearings were worn out, and I wouldn't even want to guess of the last time the oil was changed in the gear housings.  And most significantly, the 170 steel blades that slice into the ground to make a bed for seed to drop into had worn down so far that even adjusted as low as the unit would go, didn't even make contact with the ground anymore.  Andy removed all 340 bolts by hand 2 weeks ago, Grand Forks Welding cut us out some new blades (for about 1/2 the price the manufacturer wanted to sell them to me for), and just the other day we put all the new blades on and got the seeder put back together.

It took about 5 hours to remount all 170 blades

Old blade, New blade.
Remounting the slicer disc back onto the seeder box.

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