Excellent community participation at Devils Lake summit

 

"After touring the chronically flooded Devils Lake Basin by school bus and then by Blackhawk helicopter Monday, federal and state officials passed hundreds of chanting, shovel- and sign-carrying local residents who lined College Drive as their caravan traveled to Lake Region State College".

I attended the summit Monday as Devils Lake area residents worked together to present their compelling case for a east side outlet.  The lake rose approximately 3′ last year and is at a level of 1451′.  The lake will begin overflowing into the Sheyenne River uncontrolled at 1458′.  It is projected to rise another 2 – 3′ this year again.  

The challenges of Devils Lake are not theirs alone, uncontrolled overflow would impact downstream neighbors along the Sheyenne and Red River as well.  This is another example of why working together for more comprehensive water management for the entire Red River Basin is paramount.  

Here’s an article on the event.  I’ll add some pictures and comments soon:

Published May 04 2010
Summit looks at Devils Lake flooding

Officials get the message, pledge to move into planning stages right away
DEVILS LAKE, N.D. – After touring the chronically flooded Devils Lake Basin by school bus and then by Blackhawk helicopter Monday, federal and state officials passed hundreds of chanting, shovel- and sign-carrying local residents who lined College Drive as their caravan traveled to Lake Region State College.
By: Kevin Bonham, Forum Communications Co., INFORUM

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. – After touring the chronically flooded Devils Lake Basin by school bus and then by Blackhawk helicopter Monday, federal and state officials passed hundreds of chanting, shovel- and sign-carrying local residents who lined College Drive as their caravan traveled to Lake Region State College.

“East Outlet Now,” read the black-on-yellow signs.

“Save Our Town. Save Our Homes,” read others, as elementary students chanted the theme.

“We just caught a 5-pound walleye over a pasture,” said Bobbi Otis, a Devils Lake resident who with Andrea Janzen, director of Community Options in Devils Lake, brought an aluminum boat to help illustrate the issue.

Federal officials got the message at the two-hour-long Devils Lake Summit, which filled a 700-seat auditorium and packed 500 more in another room with a live video feed.

“This is high on our scope,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We have some hard decisions to make. We know this is a real hardship on people.”

He pledged to begin working immediately with the state on plans to build a new control structure on the east end of Devils Lake. However, he cautioned that it could be two years to complete the necessary environmental impact study. Any possible project also would require a feasibility study, as well as federal funding.

North Dakota’s Democratic congressional delegation said it would work to advance the timeline to get such a project started earlier.

“I think we’ve sent a very clear message,” Sen. Kent Conrad said.

“I think today is a shift in strategy,” Sen. Byron Dorgan said. “We can’t any longer gamble on the chance of it receding.”

“Folks here have a tenacity that’s unbelievable,” Rep. Earl Pomeroy said. “They’re conducting their lives in the midst of all this, this flood that won’t quit. And just when you think you’ve got things fixed, you have to start all over again.”

Gov. John Hoeven, a Republican running for Dorgan’s soon-to-be vacated seat, added, “We’re asking our federal partners to help us move more water out of the lake in a controlled way.”

Keeps rising

Devils Lake was at 1,451.5 feet above sea level Monday. The lake has risen nearly 29 feet and tripled in size since the latest wet cycle began in 1993.

The 17-year flood fight has cost $1 billion to raise roads and protect other infrastructure. Some 450 homes and 650 total structures have been moved or destroyed.

The lake is just 6.5 feet from spilling naturally but uncontrollably out of neighboring Stump Lake through the Tolna Coulee to the Sheyenne River.

A U.S. Geological Survey probabilistic simulation indicates a 10 percent chance that the lake will spill in the next decade.

The National Weather Service forecast shows a 50 percent chance of reaching 1,452 by mid-summer.

National Weather Service Director John Hayes added that some models show a potential for the lake reaching 1,454 feet by the end of the year, with continued higher-than-normal precipitation.

Even at 1,451.5 feet, scores of area roads are closed because of flooding, and more miles are flooded and closed every day. Emergency responders constantly have to adjust routes to reach homes in the region that have limited or virtually no direct access.

“This kicks off another level of multi-agency cooperation to get this effort going,” Pomeroy said. “This has taken an unacceptable human toll.”

The congressional delegation and federal officials said they would include downstream communities in the discussions and planning. Mayors from Valley City and Lisbon, both located on the Sheyenne River, as well as a Fargo city commissioner, participated in the event.

“At 1,455 feet, our sewer system is gone, and most of our town is gone,” Minnewaukan Mayor Trish McQuoid said, adding that the lake – once eight miles from Minnewaukan Public School in town – now is just 100 feet away.

Kevin Bonham is a reporter at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

Avatar of Mike Williams

About Mike Williams

Name: Mike Williams Location: Fargo, North Dakota Website: http://www.electwilliams.com Occupation: Risk Manager Family Mutual Insurance Fargo City Commissioner since 2004, re-elected in 2008 and 2012 About Me: I'm a pragmatic optimist that's grateful for all the wonderful people in my life
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