Levee Construction Continues at Devils Lake

December 6, 2010

Diane Schroeder-Monda started Mi-Ty Trucking & Excavating in 2000 and never thought she would receive an award for her hard work and path to success. She obtained contracts for public projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Defense in North Dakota using a fleet of 25 side dump and belly-dump trucks.

With the continuous flooding in and around Devils Lake, she took on other work and, out of necessity, has changed her business to Mi-Ty Contracting, LLC. Its current project is building 1.5 miles of new levees for the Corps of Engineers to stop the water from entering communities downstream. A large, four-pump station construction is a part of this project.

“We acquired clay from local land owners about a mile from the project that meet the specifications to build the levee,” said Monda. “We’re adding to an existing levee that is 1,460 feet high and will build it to 1,469.2 feet high. The lake is about 10 feet down from the existing levee.”

To build the levee and pump station, Mi-Ty is using its Caterpillar and John Deere excavators, dozers, Bomag compactors, and side-dump and belly-dump trucks to haul new clay, pack the clay, and cut into the existing levee. “On the wet side of the levee, we have to remove riprap and the bedding, re-grade, and place new geotextile material, bedding and riprap,” said Monda. So far, Mi-Ty has installed 260,000 cubic yards of clay to build up the mile and a half of levee.

The levee is in the Devils Lake city limits on the east side of the lake that  feeds into Valley City, Lisbon and, eventually, to the Red River. Empty fields dominate this area, and with much farming and re-construction, the lake spilled into the area as the lake slowly spread.

Pump station and cofferdam
“The state built the original levee in 1997 because Devils Lake has been rising. The lake is in a basin and there’s a natural outlet on the east end. If water reaches 1,460 feet, then it will flow naturally out of the levee. We will demolish the two existing pump stations and replace them with one large pump station that has four pumps in it. Currently, we are building a cofferdam for the gatewell system on the new pump station.” Monda stated.

The cofferdam also is a challenge. On the levee, which protects the entire city, Mi-Ty built a secondary levee behind the cofferdam. “We drove sheet piles in the lake to protect the new gatewell structure that we’re building. The gatewell runs through the levee and leads to the pump station,” said Monda.

The four electric pumps in the gatewell can pump water at 25,000 gallons a minute each. They will operate automatically and will kick in when water reaches a certain level. “We’re building the cofferdam first by driving steel piling into the lake to begin dewatering. We’re using a Manitowoc crane to lower the sheet pile and we have a driver to pound in the pile. The lake will freeze soon; that’s why we have to build the gatewell now.

“We’re going to build a temporary shelter around the cofferdam to prepare for concrete pours and will use small pumps to dewater that site,” Monda stated.

The levee is almost completed. When Mi-Ty started construction, the levee had two lanes and was 15 feet across. Using company dozers and a compactor, employees continued to build up the levee, and the mile and a half of construction will result in a 25-foot tall levee that is 15 feet wide at the top.

“In addition, we’re building on the dry side of the levee. Devils Lake owns the boat landing where we’re building the pump station and had to acquire some land on the dry side of the levee from local landowners,” explained Monda.

The state bought out some towns and relocated the residents because the lake rises about two feet every year, but the lake continues to draw many people to live in the area. “We live 20 miles west of Devils Lake in the town of Minnewaukan,” Monda said. “In the early 1990s, the lake was miles away from my house and, now, the edge of the lake is one block away.”

Monda’s husband, Shane, a CPA, company superintendent, and the head quality control manager on this project, said, “The levees are built only near large cities, not on the side where the farms are,” he said. “In our small town, many residents have been forced to take buyouts. We expect that in two years the lake will flood this area completely as water continues to spread out.”    

Monda said Mi-Ty will complete the levee and pump station in April 2011 with help from its subcontractor, Park Construction of Minneapolis, which has been building levees in North Dakota since 1997. At least four additional general contractors work in the area to construct levees and other protection for the various lake communities.
In September, Mi-Ty Contracting, LLC was named Regional Minority Construction Firm of the Year. The Native American Business Enterprise Center of North and South Dakota nominated Mi-Ty, and Schroeder-Monda, a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribe, beat successful minority businesses from an 11-state region for her 10 years of hard work.

Mi-Ty Contracting also works in road construction, concrete repairs and paving. About 35 employees work all year on projects that range from concrete repair at the Grand Forks Air Force Base to re-grading missile sites at the Minot Air Force Base. Monda said she expects more construction projects around Devils Lake when spring weather melts the snow, raises the water level and roads must be repaired.