With water receding, Watertown city officials issue flood recap

May 1, 2023

WATERTOWN, S.D.–The Watertown Area Flood Task Force met Monday to discuss and evaluate its response to recent flooding that occurred at Lake Kampeska, Lake Pelican and along the Big Sioux River.

The National Weather Service along with local officials had anticipated high water levels on the lakes and along the river, but how high the water was going to get remained a mystery. City and County Officials formed a Unified Command System to address the rising water threat, and on March 27th they activated the Emergency Operations Center to coordinate a response.

The National Weather Service had predicted that Lake Kampeska could reach 54 inches over full. Lake Kampeska ultimately crested April 15th at 44.28 inches over full, not quite the level that was seen in 2019 when Kampeska crested at 45.56 inches over full. The Big Sioux River gauge at Broadway crested April 13th at 11.85 feet. This is slightly higher than the 2019 level of 11.77 feet. Lake Pelican remained a concern for officials as it kept rising until April 21st when it crested at 37.92 inches over full. The level was significantly higher than in 2019 when the lake
reached 34.68 inches over full.

During the next several weeks, officials will begin removing Hesco baskets that were utilized to protect city infrastructure. This infrastructure included power substations and lift stations around Lake Kampeska and along the Big Sioux River.

Residents who need to dispose of contaminated (wet) sandbags may do so by dropping them off at the Watertown Street Department, 730 Arrow Avenue, or the Watertown Regional Landfill, 45605 175th Avenue, or at Sailboat  Landing, 200 N. Lake Drive, away from the water.

Residents should not dispose of sandbags in area lakes. Sandbags that have been in contact with water could be contaminated with sewage, oil and other pollutants. These contaminations make the sandbags hazardous to reuse or even keep in storage.