Devils Lake gets ready to fight floodWith yet another potential three-foot rise in the record Devils Lake this year, state and federal agencies are scrambling to stay ahead of the rising lake.
By: By Kevin Bonham, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — With yet another potential three-foot rise in the record Devils Lake this year, state and federal agencies are scrambling to stay ahead of the rising lake.
“The challenge we face here is there are so many different interested parties that want this to be done without adverse impacts on them,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Monday at an organizational meeting of the Devils Lake Executive Committee.
The National Weather Service forecasts a 50-50 chance the lake will reach or surpass 1,454.7 feet above sea level and a 20 percent probability it will reach or surpass 1,455.1 feet.
The lake has risen nearly 30 feet and quadrupled in size in the past 18 years. At 1,458 feet, it would spill naturally to the Tolna Coulee and downstream to the Sheyenne River Valley.
“1,455 feet is a level that we consider very realistic,” the governor said. “All of the plans we’ve made are good. It’s just been accelerated.
* The state of North Dakota is confident that by June 2012, it can:
* Increase the capacity of the existing state-owned west end outlet from 250 cubic feet per second to 350 cfs.
* Build a new 250-cfs outlet from East Devils Lake to the Tolna Coulee.
* Contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a control structure on the Tolna Coulee to manage releases to the Sheyenne River.
Monday’s meeting was an organizational session of the new Devils Lake Executive Committee, which includes representatives of nearly 20 federal, tribal, state and local governments.
Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh, chief of the Mississippi Valley of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the group’s priority is to help the state carry out its action plan. While Monday’s meeting was organizational — to obtain a federal charter — he cautioned the term organizational may not best describe the effort.
“You don’t see speed and momentum moving at the same time very often, and you have that here,” he said. “It’s not a kick-off meeting. It’s a keep-going meeting.”
Besides providing guidance to a local Devils Lake working group headed by Col. Michael Price of the Corps’ St. Paul District and to provide communication and coordination between federal, state, local and tribal interests, the new group also intends to identify trigger elevations for emergency actions.
While most construction projects are on hold until spring arrives, the Spirit Lake Nation already has road crew working around the clock to raise main Bureau of Indian Affairs roads to an elevation of 1,455 feet within the next six to eight weeks, with another road raise to follow.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the committee must convince federal agencies to tweak programs — with tools such as waivers or exemptions — to deal with the unique situation of Devils Lake. He noted that such action has occurred before, to move threatened homes before they are inundated.
“If this committee is going to any good, we’ve got to get waivers, exemptions, whatever it takes from the federal government to allow adjustments to federal programs, to get more water moving off the lake,” he said.
“We have to move with haste,” Ramsey County Commission Chairman Joe Belford said. “We have so much damage up there. More is coming this spring. People are on the edge.”
Kevin Bonham is a reporter
at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.