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By Blake Nicholson, Published May 13 2009

Devils Lake surpasses 1,450 feet

BISMARCK (AP) – Devils Lake has become the latest hot spot for flood-fighting in a state that has seen record flooding in several areas this spring, including Fargo.

Gov. John Hoeven, who toured the region Wednesday, said state officials have not neglected Devils Lake.

With Devils Lake flooding, he said, “it’s just that it comes later.”

Devils Lake, which has more than tripled in size since 1993 because of a series of wet years in the basin, hit a record on April 29, eclipsing the previous 1,449.2 foot record set in May 2006.

U.S. Geological Survey data showed the lake surpassing 1,450 feet on Wednesday. The National Weather Service says the lake is expected to hit 1,451 feet this summer.

Wednesday’s tour included stops in Minnewaukan, the North Dakota National Guard’s Camp Grafton, and the Lakewood area outside the city of Devils Lake. Hoeven and other state officials also met with local officials in Devils Lake.

“We’re making sure we’re getting things done as far as raising the roads and levees around the lake,” he said.

The state Transportation Department budget has about $52 million for road work around Devils Lake - about 80 percent of it federal money. The federal Transportation Department in February also provided $3 million to help shore up roads acting as dams around the lake.

The state Water Commission budget has $10 million to help pay for work on the dike that protects the city of Devils Lake.

The Army Corps of Engineers eventually plans to complete a design for raising the entire 8-mile, three-section dike up to at least 1,468 feet, which would provide protection to a lake level of about 1,459 feet. Such a project would take years.

The agency has hired a consultant to study a possible dike raise this year to 1,465 feet in the Creel Bay area, where wave run-up is a problem. The corps also is studying an extension of the dike in the Lakewood area south of the city.

Officials this year have not been able to run the Devils Lake outlet, which diverts floodwaters into the Sheyenne River. Outlet operations are restricted by the water flow in the Sheyenne, which has been flooding this spring. Dale Frink, the Water Commission’s chief engineer, said earlier in the week that the state intends to run the outlet this year but that he did not know exactly when.

The outlet, which also is restricted by water quality in the Sheyenne, has run only sporadically the past few years. It took only about one-tenth of an inch of water off the lake last year.

Hoeven said the $28 million outlet is not the cure-all for Devils Lake flooding, but is meant to be used in conjunction with other measures such as increased water storage in the upper Devils Lake basin.

“We’d like to see more water move out of the outlet,” the governor said. “The Water Commission, the water resources district up here, everybody is working to increase that. With any of these projects there’s a learning curve or experience curve.”

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