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Devils Lake Likely to Be Next Flood ’Hot Spot’ in N.D.

Fri May 08, 2009 - Midwest Edition
Blake Nicholson

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) State and local officials worry the Devils Lake region will be the next “hot spot” for flooding in North Dakota.

“The whole state is flooding. Our turn is after a while,” Ramsey County Commissioner Joe Belford said during a recent State Water Commission meeting.

The Army Corps of Engineers is studying the possibility of a dike raise around the city of Devils Lake, as well as dike alignment alternatives, as part of a $5 million project started in late 2007. Construction on a dike raise could begin as early as this fall.

The corps had hoped to hold a public meeting in Devils Lake in March to talk about the work, but that meeting has been delayed until April.

“We had a conference call with local officials…and decided we would hold off a few more weeks so the corps can focus on flood fighting in the Red River Valley and other areas,” said Bonnie Greenleaf, the Devils Lake project manager for the corps. “We’ve got a lot of people in the field right now.”

The National Weather Service is predicting a record Devils Lake level this summer, above 1,450 ft. (442 m). The record high for the lake is 1,449.2 ft. (442 m) in May 2006.

It is unlikely that the city of Devils Lake would be threatened this summer, but flooding is almost a certainty throughout the basin. Snowmelt inflows into Devils Lake are “way above what we saw even in 1997,” said Bruce Engelhardt, an assistant state Water Commission engineer.

Flooding in the Devils Lake region has caused more than half a billion dollars in damage since the early 1990s. The lake has tripled in size and spilled over into nearby Stump Lake.

If the region floods this spring, officials are not expecting much immediate relief from the Devils Lake outlet, which diverts floodwaters into the Sheyenne River. Dale Frink, the Water Commission’s chief engineer, said outlet operations are restricted by the water flow in the Sheyenne, which also has been flooding this spring.

The outlet last year took only about one-tenth of an inch of water off the lake.

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