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Published March 22, 2010, 08:32 AM

Ranchers battle against high river levels during calving season

Ransom County, ND (WDAY TV) - While so many of us are breathing a sigh of relief following the weekend crest, some living south and west of here are battling ice jams and high water. The National Weather Service says the Sheyenne could go up to 19-and-a-half or 20-feet because of an ice jam at the Highway-32 Bridge. Lisbon is protected to 21-feet and for farmers and ranching preparing for calving season, a living is all hitched to the river levels falling.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

“I don't think we need anymore do you.”

Morning farm chores usually don't involve sandbagging, but today Don Sweet and his son Clinton are trying to save the one remaining stretch of grass leading to all their cattle now surrounded by the fast moving Sheyenne.

“It's a bad deal.”

All this water could not come at a worse time for the Sweets. It is calving season. 80-head are preparing to give birth.

“Try to save the culvert to feed those cows and check for calves.”

The levels have come up quickly. Ice jams in the Sheyenne near the Sweet Farm make the river route unpredictable.

“They are surrounded. This is the only way they can out. They will swim if they have to. Its hard to get feed to them.”

Ice chunks flow by the farm. A 30-foot steep embankment is now even with the river, a sight the Sweets rarely ever see.

“We have never had any trouble at all.”

By preserving this last remaining path, the Sweets hope to keep the lifeline of feed to 100 head of cattle open. This, as new calves arrive on a pasture surrounded by a river that tonight is anything but lazy and winding.

In Lisbon and Fort Ransom North Dakota, they've been using equipment to clear ice jams on the Sheyenne, near bridges, the last 24-hours. The Army Corps and the North Dakota Guard were called on to help protect the small town.

Tonight, officials say there is a comfort level with this year's situation.

“Well we are very good, given that we don't get two or three inches of rain we will be just fine.”

The ice jams and run-away river routes have damaged several township roads near Ft. Ransom, forcing rural residents to take long distance round-about ways to town.