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Published June 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

Hold Devils Lake water in basin

In a May 31 commentary in The Forum, Ardon L. Herman of Minnewaukan, N.D., proposed a solution to flooding around Devils Lake. To avoid losing “the city of Minnewaukan, highways, railroads, etc. and another 100,000 acres of prime farmland,” local and state governments should “clean out” the Tolna Coulee.

By: Richard Betting, Valley City, N.D.

In a May 31 commentary in The Forum, Ardon L. Herman of Minnewaukan, N.D., proposed a solution to flooding around Devils Lake. To avoid losing “the city of Minnewaukan, highways, railroads, etc. and another 100,000 acres of prime farmland,” local and state governments should “clean out” the Tolna Coulee.

Without any facts or figures to support his plan, Herman wants someone to dig a ditch 13 feet deep through the Tolna Coulee. That is, reducing the point of overflow from Devils Lake/Stump Lake from 1,459 to 1,446 feet mean sea level would allow all of the water above the 1,446-foot level to flow from Stump Lake into the Sheyenne River.

This year that would have meant that all of the water flowing into Devils Lake would pass through the lake and into the Sheyenne. How much water? More than 600,000 acre/feet. Probably at a rate of 7,000-8,000 cubic feet per second. At a time when that much water was flowing through Valley City, N.D., already. That would have been the “14-foot wall of water” doomsters predict will happen when the lake reaches 1,459 feet.

With water at a rate of 8,000 or more cubic feet per second flowing out of Devils Lake by way of the Tolna Coulee, a so-called “control structure” would require a dam larger than Baldhill. Water quality would be horrendous. Last time I looked, sulfate levels in Stump Lake were at about 5,000 mg/L. Other contaminants are equally high. By comparison maximum sulfate levels in the Health Department permit for the Devils Lake outlet from West Bay is 450 milligrams per liter. But Herman claims Stump Lake water would have “little adverse effect downstream.”

Before Herman continues to propose his Tolna Coulee cleanout as a solution, he should get scientific studies to back up his assertions about water quality, control structures, downstream impacts, and costs to build structures and treat water.

But the biggest study is yet to be done: a scientific study of the amount of drainage and its effects on the upper basin of Devils Lake and what they will be in the future.

The Sheyenne River has its own issues with draining and flooding. Adding Devils Lake water would be a return to the Ice Age. Let Devils Lake basin water stay in the basin, and let them deal with it there.

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