Letter to the editor: Downstream residents must be wary of open ditchesBoth the West End and East End outlets from Devils Lake will soon be operating, the North Dakota State Water Commission recently announced. That could mean increased flows in the Sheyenne River, as the two outlets will add a total of 600 cubic feet per second to what is already in the river. By late summer that will mean more than 10 times as much water as normal in the river.
By: Richard Betting, The Jamestown Sun
Both the West End and East End outlets from Devils Lake will soon be operating, the North Dakota State Water Commission recently announced.
That could mean increased flows in the Sheyenne River, as the two outlets will add a total of 600 cubic feet per second to what is already in the river. By late summer that will mean more than 10 times as much water as normal in the river.
More important to downstream Sheyenne River residents, though, is that the Tolna Coulee Outlet project will also soon be completed. With sheet piling and a control structure in place, the coulee will be protected from the long-threatened chance of massive erosion of the coulee. There can no longer be any chance of a 14-foot wall of water downstream. Why hasn’t the project completion gotten the applause it deserves?
First, with dry weather recently, the chances of Devils Lake continuing to rise seems remote. Second, if Devils Lake does rise and if the Tolna Coulee does erode, the end result will be far worse for downstream Sheyenne River users than what was forecast before. The “control structure” that will reduce flows during an overflow event will remain open. The control structure will not be rebuilt. What will be left will be an open ditch, not a dam, allowing all of the water in Devils Lake to flow freely through the Tolna Coulee and into the river, at an elevation as low as 1,446 feet above mean sea level. Over and over, year after year. In other words, the elevation of Devils Lake will have been lowered forever.
The prospect of an open ditch should frighten everyone living downstream of Stump Lake. Yet no one seems to be paying attention. In fact, another ditch is still being planned, the West Stump Lake Ditch. There could soon be four outlets from Devils Lake into the Sheyenne. The fourth could be the worst because the lake might not have to rise for it to operate. The ditch could be dug so low that water already in the lake could begin to flow into the river. Initial elevations being planned are 1,452 feet msl, perhaps lower.
If that should happen, it could mean that the money spent on the other three outlets has been wasted. Before that happens, the North Dakota State Water Commission should complete studies of the entire Devils Lake basin, including the causes of flooding and the best ways to manage water on the lake. Downstream users should not bear the cost of Devils Lake water.
Valley City, N.D.