Richard Betting, Valley City
Downstream Sheyenne River residents should not rest easy just because they heard that the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource Board withdrew its sponsorship of the West Stump Lake Outlet project. That doesn't mean that other projects to dump more Devils Lake water into the Sheyenne aren't being planned.
In fact the Devils Lake City Commission has scheduled a tentative meeting for Sept. 5 for all basin counties to discuss how to use the Tolna Coulee Control Structure as a gravity flow outlet to get water out of Stump Lake and into the Sheyenne.
The Tolna Coulee project was just completed in July. The project guaranteed because the sheet pile and a control structure were installed that the coulee would not erode and cause a calamitous 14-foot wall of water downstream. Instead, the control structure will allow a gradual erosion of the coulee. After erosion occurs, Devils Lake will drain into Stump Lake and then into the Tolna Coulee at a lower elevation than before, probably at an elevation of 1,446 feet above mean sea level.
That is, all of the water above that elevation would flow into the Sheyenne River and cause continual flooding problems, since there would be no control structure to prevent disastrous amounts of water to drain into the river. Like the 600,000 acre-feet that flowed into the lake in 2009 and in 2011. The Devils Lake watershed above an elevation of 1,446 feet msl. would have, in effect, been added to the Sheyenne River watershed.
The result of next week's meeting could be that the counties above Devils Lake will act to drain water through the Tolna Coulee. They will not want to wait until Devils Lake rises to the historical overflow elevation of 1,458 feet msl. They will want to start draining now, although the elevation of the lake now is about 1,452.15 feet, more than 2 feet lower than last year and 6 feet below overflow.
All of those living along the Sheyenne will be placed in more flooding danger as a result of such an action, and all of the downstream effects should be studied and determined before any action to do this is taken. A comparison: Minnesota will spend $1.5 million to study the effect of sulfate on growing wild rice. As little as 10 mg/l of sulfate may be harmful. That's more than North Dakota has spent to determine the effects of 750 mg/l sulfate on the entire ecology of the Sheyenne.
Both Gov. Jack Dalrymple and candidate for governor Ryan Taylor should be asked to guarantee residents downstream on the Sheyenne River that no plan to drain Stump Lake would be implemented until a complete Environmental Impact Statement has been done to determine downstream effects of Stump Lake water on the river.