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Letter to the editor: Another study could reveal more facts about project


A recent court order stopping construction on the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project will probably result in further studies of the downstream effects of such a project. A newspaper editorial published in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead on Sept. 24 seemed to support such action. After stating that “a diversion is needed to carry roughly half of the volume of the Red River in times of significant flooding,” The Forum stated that “Only a diversion with a controlled release can do that.”

“Finding a way” was the main problem the editorial stated. A study might prove it. One issue might also be what will adding the entire Sheyenne River watershed to the Red River do.

In its next study the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could take into consideration what has not yet been done: Deal with the fact that the Tolna Coulee Control Structure will, if allowed to function as intended, fully connect the Devils Lake Basin with the Sheyenne River and then the Red River.

When Devils Lake floods next time - rising to an elevation of 1,458 feet above mean sea level as the Tolna Coulee Control Structure intends - the coulee could erode, erode all the way down to 1,446 feet above mean sea level. At which point the operational rules for the Tolna Coulee Control Structure forbid replacement of the stop logs. The coulee would become a pass-through ditch. All of the water entering Devils Lake above 1,446 feet mean sea level thereafter would flow into the Sheyenne River and then into the Red River.

How much water would that add to the Red?

The North Dakota State Water Commission figures showed that in 2009 and again in 2011 about 600,000 acre-feet of water flowed from the upper basin of Devils Lake into the lake itself. But since the Tolna Coulee Control Structure was still intact, none of that water flowed into the Sheyenne.

After a flood and the coulee erodes, then there will be no stopping the water above 1,446 feet mean sea level from flowing into the Sheyenne River then into the Red River.

How much water will be added to the Red River and when will that happen? Important facts that another study could reveal while there’s still time to deal with them.