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Devils Lake Basin Board meets ND Water Commission in Wolford

By Staff | Jun 10, 2011

The Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource Board (Basin board) held its June 8 meeting in Wolford. Three staff members of the ND Water Commission attended. They were Mike Noone, Laura Ackerman, and Erwin Curry.

Representatives from Cavalier, Eddy, Nelson, Pierce, Ramsey, Rolette and Towner were all in attendance. Eight counties make up the water resource board, the above seven and Walsh County whose representative was not present at the meeting and not voting. They came to talk water issues in the Devils Lake Basin.

“We have our backs up against a wall,” said John Elsperger, Towner County, who said he has 50% of his land under water.

“I think we have more serious problems than people want to see,” he added.

The board discussed the east end outlet that the state of North Dakota has proposed to help alleviate flooding from Devils Lake.

The city of Devils Lake is opposed to the control structure on land owned by the city of Devils lake and is also opposed to the east end outlet. The Devils Lake City Commission is in the process of sending a letter to Governor Jack Dalrymple to clarify their position and ask for emergency action to take water off Devils Lake this summer and fall. Ramsey County has drafted a resolution opposing the Governor’s and ND Water Commission’s design of the control structure at the Tolna Coulee Outlet.After some discussion, the Basin board decided to lend their support to Devils Lake. Mike Donahue, Nelson County, made a motion to send a letter to the governor and also one to the city of Devils Lake showing the Basin board’s support of Devils Lake in opposing the east end outlet. It was seconded by Duaine Ash, Ramsey County. All seven counties present voted in favor.

Each of the seven counties present gave short reports on their counties.

“I haven’t met anyone around here who has seen this much water before,” said Duane Hawk, Pierce County.

Over in Rolette County, many culverts need replacing according to Ronald Heinz.

Nelson County reports beaver trouble, and a very wet county. “Water flowed all winter through Tolna Coulee,” commented Donahue.

Cavalier County hasn’t faired any better “I’ve never seen roads so soft,”said Larry Gellner. “Roadwork is being done, but it’s going to cost a lot of money.”

In Ramsey County, residents are finding it hard to get around as there is water over so many roads. Crops aren’t getting planted either as fields are inundated with water.

A few of the counties mentioned that not all of the crops have been planted (50-60%) this year to date.

As for the water crisis, Devils Lake appears to have peaked on May 31 at 1454.35′. On the day of this meeting, June 8 the level was 1454.2″. However, the damage has been done in erosion, inundated acres,and even tax base problems.

“We can’t handle any more water,” said Joe Belford, Ramsey County Commissioner and Downstream coordinator. He went on to say that the tax base for Devils Lake is eroding because of inundated land. He said Devils Lake has already borrowed one million dollars and may have to borrow another million.

Laura Ekerman, state water commission, presented the application forms for a permit to install a subsurface drain (drain tile) on private land. She spoke on what is required by the law that passed in the most recent legislative session concerning the requirement to have a permit for sub service drainage. This Act is declared to be an emergency measure. Applications need to be submitted to the water resource district when completed.

Basin board manager Jeff Frith in addition to conducting the meeting, reported about the work of getting the message out by various forms of media. He and Belford have spoken to organizations and taken people on tours of Devils Lake when the roads permit. Frith also did a presentation to middle school students to educate the next generation on water issues. Work continues on the television documentary.

The board approved the 2012 budget,reviewed the performance of manager Frith and approved a 5% raise for him. The July meeting date for the Basin board was changed to Wednesday, July 6 because of the state water meeting in Bismarck on July 13.

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