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Homeland Security

North Dakota Guardsmen walk levees looking for leaks

June 9, 2011

By Spc. Lance Schillinger, North Dakota National Guard Public Affairs

BISMARCK, N.D., June 9, 2011 -- North Dakota National Guard personnel have now shifted their focus from filling sandbags to another important task, levee surveillance and patrol. And they are going on their patrols knowing exactly what they are looking for on the levees throughout their assigned area.

"Levees and dikes can leak," said Lt. Matthew Voeller as he explained the importance of everyone's role. "Even the Hoover Dam leaks," he said during a class on proper dike observation. This group of Soldiers was learning about what to look for when out on patrol.

"Your role is to observe and report," Voeller said to his class. "Document the conditions of anything you see."

The role of the dike patroll is a vital part of keeping Minot, Bismarck and Mandan, N.D., safe as the flood waters continue to challenge these communities.

Along the levees, there is potential for water to come in from under the ground or even straight through to the other side, which is why it's important to always have someone watching.

"Water takes the path of least resistance," said Voeller as he pointed out how water may come through the structures on a visual representation of a levee.

A dike patrol is taught how to spot potential issues within the structures, and they are shown how to measure cracks and holes. They also learn to take pictures of anything that they believe could become an issue within the system and report it to higher headquarters.

"These are what we are taught to look for," said Spc. Brent Noonan while on a dike patrol. Noonan holds a paper full of examples of boils and leaks that could potentially come from the structure.

"Then we record as much information as possible and report it on to higher command," he said.

The patrols last for about eight hours before they are rotated out and fresh eyes come in to observe.

The Soldiers are determined to protect the cities on their mission of watching and ensuring the soundness of the structures that hold back potentially dangerous waters.

The Guardsmen are responsible for six and a half miles of levees in Mandan and Morton Counties, and nine miles of levees in Bismarck and Burleigh Counties.

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