ND marinas challenged by high water
PICK CITY, N.D. — High winds recently caused extensive damage to the marina gangway at Lake Sakakawea State Park. Some boats have been removed from the Garrison Bay Marina at Fort Stevenson State Park south of Garrison.
Park managers say the current level of high water in Lake Sakakawea is the reason why. The water has reached a historic level in the big reservoir. Thursday's water level for Lake Sakakawea was 1,852.49 feet, the fourth-highest level ever recorded on Lake Sakakawea and a mere foot and a half from overflow.
The high water means boats and docks have risen accordingly, virtually eliminating protection from high winds in state park marinas. A windstorm earlier this month rolled across high water and ripped into the Lake Sakakawea State Park Marina.
"The storm whiplashed the walkway. It looked like a train wreck," said Greg Corcoran, Lake Sakakawea State Park manager. "We had 40 to 50-foot pieces turned upside down and twisted. It was just incredible."
Fortunately, said Corcoran, no one was hurt and no serious damage was done to boats moored in the marina.
"We are so elevated right now. We have no protection, just all the exposure to the wind," he said. "We can't take any more storms."
Corcoran said he hoped repairs to the marina gangway and piers would be completed by the Fourth of July but added that may not be possible given the extent of the damage. Workers were setting new anchors in the marina earlier this week for the purpose of securing tie-down cables.
Boats had to be moved from the marina's middle pier, which is the most vulnerable to wind and waves. Finding another location for the boats, some of which were in the 30-foot or longer range, was difficult and some were removed from the water entirely.
At Fort Stevenson State Park, owners of boats 33 feet and longer were notified several days ago that they would have to leave the Garrison Bay Marina.
"We had to do that to lighten the stress on the dock system and limit any damage," said Chad Trautman, Fort Stevenson State Park manager.
Trautman said eight boats had to be moved, several of which were able to make the short trip to the deTrobriand Bay Marina on the park's east side where there is more protection from the wind.
"It's been a busy year for us with all the water," said Trautman. "We've had to move docks frequently to keep them out of the water and adjust our cabling in the marina more often. We'll have to follow it back down as well."
Swim beaches at both parks have been affected by high water, too. Extensive sandy areas have mostly disappeared underneath the water.
"We had such a beautiful beach," said Corcoran. "Now we are losing that. There's sand underneath there but the beach, there's nothing left."
Despite the water woes, said Corcoran, people are still making State Parks a destination for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.
"All our campsites are taken and we are making up an overflow area," said Corcoran. "We want people to enjoy their holiday."
Boat ramps at both parks remain operational.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects Lake Sakakawea to peak at 1,852.8 feet on July 2 and remain at that level until July 9 before it begins a very slow decline. However, Thursday's inflow was 87,000 cubic feet per second, about 7,000 cfs more than contained in the Corps' short-term outlook.
Releases through Garrison Dam are expected to remain at 60,000 cfs until late July. The releases have pushed the water level of the Missouri River to within a foot and a half of flood stage in the Bismarck area. Lake Sakakawea was 90 percent full Thursday, its highest level of the year.