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Published April 18, 2009, 11:08 PM

Boats used to search for marooned N.D. farmers

Boat crews from federal agencies including the Coast Guard patrolled farming country in southeast North Dakota on Saturday, looking for people stranded by flooding from the Sheyenne River.

By: James MacPherson, Associated Press

BISMARCK — Boat crews from federal agencies including the Coast Guard patrolled farming country in southeast North Dakota on Saturday, looking for people stranded by flooding from the Sheyenne River.

The river had risen by as much as a foot in some areas since Friday, Coast Guard Chief Exor Pabro said Saturday.

“Some people have already evacuated and some people are still fighting the fight,” Pabro said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Dave Wedan said two people were taken by airboat from their farm near Kindred on Saturday. “We’ve been contacting a few other people at risk but if they want to stay we can’t make them go,” Wedan said.

Water had risen to within 100 feet of another farm home near Kindred but the family refused to evacuate, Wedan said.

“The issue is that they’ve got cows calving and sheep giving birth and they don’t want to leave,” Wedan said. The animals had been herded to higher ground and were safe, he said.

National Guard troops delivered sandbags to the home and neighbors helping to build a dike around the family’s home and barn, he said.

Sewer system

Some 50 miles to the northwest, many of the 7,000 residents of flood-threatened Valley City had evacuated while the city’s sewer system was being repaired.

Water from the bloated Sheyenne River had backed up in the sewer system throughout the town, said Mayor Mary Lee Nielson. She had urged residents to evacuate voluntarily Friday.

Barnes County Sheriff Gene Bjerke said Valley City appeared to be holding its own. “The National Guard, residents and high school and college kids have been sandbagging to no end,” he said.

But he added: “I’ve got my waders ready.”

The National Weather Service said the river stood at about 20.5 feet Saturday. The record set in 1882 was 20 feet. Flood stage is 15 feet.

City officials said the sewer system will be temporarily rebuilt above the ground and the city has been pumping sewage into the river. More than 200 portable toilets had been placed throughout the town while the sewer system is being repaired, the sheriff said.

“Everywhere you look there are portable potties,” Bjerke said.

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