Army Corps of Engineers: Stay Off Ice

TR Staff
Staff Writer

By Ellie Boese
The US Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul district, is currently in the process of lowering water levels in reservoirs within the Red River of the North Basin, performing winter drawdowns in anticipation of spring snowmelt. Since the end of February, the Corps has been lowering the elevation of Lake Ashtabula, a process which compromises the integrity of ice above and below Baldhill Dam. Corps Hydrologists confirm that because the rate at which the water levels above and below the dam naturally varies, it creates an added level of complexity to ice’s unpredictability. They caution even seasoned ice fishers and others who use the ice for recreational activities to be aware of the potential for ice conditions to rapidly change, even in a way we can’t see. One hydrologist said that as the releases continue, there are areas where the water may not even be supporting the ice from below, especially near lake’s edges. This loss of support creates free-hanging ice that those moving fish houses on and off the lake need to be increasingly aware of.
Downstream, increased flow below the dam compromises the strength of the ice on the river, either eating away at the ice’s thickness, flowing over the top of the ice, or creating an illusion of safety while the water “lifts” the ice in its increased undertow. Those who snowmobile on the frozen ice are cautioned to remain off the ice.
To Valley City residents, the US Army Corps of Engineers recommends that no one be on the ice anywhere near Baldhill Dam, north or south, and that if it’s absolutely necessary, that people maintain a heightened awareness of their surroundings with the understanding that rapid changes can create danger that is nearly impossible to detect.