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Joe Gilbertson watches rising waters surround his home Wednesday in rural Barnesville. (David Samson/The Forum)

Flood fight starts early in Barnesville

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Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501
Detroit Lakes Online
Flood fight starts early in Barnesville
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

BARNESVILLE - Joe and Bonnie Gilbertson had a big surprise when they woke up Wednesday morning.

The floodwaters that had been pooling behind the earthen dike encircling their rural Barnesville house had breached the barricade, surrounding the home with icy water.


"It's really coming in," Bonnie Gilbertson said as she stood on the shoulder of the county road running past the house. "We've got water in every direction."

The Gilbertsons went to bed Tuesday night assuming all was well because the dike, which was built three years ago, had held in previous springs. Even during the 1997 floods, before the dike was built, the 40-acre farmstead only had light flooding in the yard, Joe Gilbertson said.

Water was most likely seeping in overnight through one of the culverts built into the dike that are meant to let water inside the protected area drain away, said Wade Opsahl, a technician for the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District. Opsahl said the culverts can malfunction when they get blocked up with ice.

"I'm sure that's all it is," he said.

The water in the area, which also blanketed the adjacent farmland, may have been impeded from draining away by a ditch to the west of the home that was still clogged with snow, said Curt Stubstad, a Sabin farmer who owns 325 acres of nearby land. Water flowed Wednesday afternoon to both sides of the ditch, unable to travel through the channel.

Four small pumps and one large one supplied by Clay County were sucking water from the lawn, which Opsahl said would probably save the house.

"We'll get her taken down," he said of the floodwater on the lawn.

Gilbertson said he blames increased flooding in the area in recent years on the numerous drainage ditches that have been built. He said flooding has gotten consistently worse since the now-retired couple moved there in 1973.

He also said the watershed district built the dike around the home in exchange for the Gilbertsons signing an easement allowing for the construction of a nearby drainage ditch.

After the flooding passes, he said he'll ask the watershed district to look into why the dike didn't work.

"That's about all I can do," Joe Gilbertson said.