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Efforts to shore up dam upriver from Kathryn, N.D., seem to be working

UPDATED 5:20 p.m.

KATHRYN, N.D. - Efforts to remove pressure from an eroding dam near here appear to be working, said the Army Corps of Engineers.

Blackhawk helicopters and a Chinook helicopter have been dropping 1,000-pound sandbags on a corner of the dam at Clausen Springs to divert water from the emergency spillway, which is rapidly eroding.

An excavator removed brush and trees to steer the water away from the spillway.

"It seems to be working," said Rich Schueneman, resource manager with the Corps. "We're hearing good reports."

About 20 perecent of the water has been diverted, Schueneman said.

Kerry Johnson, superintendent of the Barnes County Highway Department who is on the scene, estimates about 18 to 24 sandbags have been placed.

"We've got the situation pretty stabilized now," Johnson said.

The danger is not over yet, however, for the town of Kathryn, which was evacuated Wednesday morning. Residents of three farms between the dam and Kathryn also were notified, Johnson said.

The North Dakota National Guard will monitor the site around the clock.

Gov. John Hoeven is en route to visit the site.

Earlier in the day, the situation looked more dire.

Before the efforts to stabilize the dam began, the rushing water had eroded about 30 feet of the spillway since 8:30 a.m., Johnson said.

"If this goes, the town's gone," Johnson said of the dam.

Water has not come over the dam since 1975, said Dennis Helland, who has lived about a mile from the dam for 61 years.

That year, the area got about 20 inches of rain in a week, Helland said.

The Forum reported on July 1, 1975, that water was flowing about 30 inches deep over the dam's emergency spillway as a result of as much as 12 inches of rain that fell in just a few days.

Most of the town's then-110 residents were evacuated - including two families by boat - as water filled many basements and crept onto the first floor of some homes. About 25 diehards stayed behind.

West of Kathryn at Clausen Springs Park, more than 50 campers were marooned on high ground and had to be rescued by boat, the Forum reported.

The town held its 75th birthday celebration about three weeks later.

Kathryn is about 17 miles miles south of Valley City.

View Kathryn, N.D., being evacuated because of erosion to nearby dam in a larger map