The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to protect people and property in response to severe flooding and potential flooding in parts of North Dakota and South Dakota. Approximately 50 employees from the Service's Mountain-Prairie Region and Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region are on the ground in the Dakotas and actively involved with flood response operations in close coordination with local, state, and federal emergency agencies, including search and rescue.
The Service's recent and current efforts have focused primarily on the Fargo area in North Dakota, where weather and flooding have been most severe. As flood waters rose recently in the Fargo area, Service airboat crews - responding from national wildlife refuges and other Service field offices from the Dakotas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota - assisted an average of 20 families per day, and completed 88 rescue missions and evacuated 150 people. These rescues, which were coordinated seamlessly with other agencies such as U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Border Patrol, often occurred during challenging weather conditions and were conducted safely, highlighting the Service's commitment to the mission and focus on safety.
"The Service is proud to be a part of a safe and effective flood response in Fargo and throughout the Dakotas," said Steve Guertin, the Service's Mountain-Prairie Region Director. "I commend Service staff for their hard work and dedication to public safety and resource protection, and appreciate the strong support and cooperation the Service has experienced while working with local, state, and federal partners, including Cass County, North Dakota, the State of North Dakota, and the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Border Patrol, and volunteer search and rescue teams."
Guertin added: "The Service recognizes the potential for flooding throughout the Dakotas will remain high in the weeks ahead, and we will maintain an active presence in communities where we are needed until the flood waters recede."
While rescue and relief operations are ongoing, the Service is also working throughout the flood impact area to protect Service facilities such as National Wildlife Refuge System and National Fish Hatchery units from weather-related damage. Preventive actions - including sandbag placement, dike repair, ice and debris removal to maintain road access, and a variety of other efforts - have reduced the amount of damage that has occurred so far to buildings, roads, and equipment on our national wildlife refuges and hatcheries. Planning is underway to clean up and restore these facilities as soon as weather permits.
In addition, the Service is actively preparing for potentially significant flooding in other parts of North Dakota and in South Dakota adding resources in the Minot, North Dakota, area where conditions are deteriorating and the potential for significant flooding is increasing. The Service is also closely monitoring the situation near Aberdeen, South Dakota, where flooding from the James River near Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge is expected to increase.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has established operations in the Dakotas and the Service is now one of the agencies working cooperatively under FEMA's umbrella with a variety of local, state, and federal agencies. Additional information on the Service's flood response efforts can be found at www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/floodinfo.