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By Kevin Bonham, Forum Communications Co., Published March 06 2010

Devils Lake could rise 2 to 3 feet

A 2- to 3-foot rise of floodwaters is a “very strong possibility” in the Devils Lake Basin this spring.

The National Weather Service has raised the risk of Devils Lake reaching to 1,452.1 feet above sea level to 90 percent and its chance of reaching 1,453 feet at

40 percent.

The lake froze this winter at an elevation of about 1,450.1 feet.

Snow-water-equivalent values range from 4 to 5 inches in the central and western basin to about 3 inches in the far northeast portions of the basin, according to snow core samples taken over the past two weeks, according to Greg Gust, weather service warning coordination meteorologist.

The survey team includes representatives of the North Dakota State Water Commission and weather service cooperative observers.

“The water is there. Devils Lake has risen two-tenths of a foot over the winter, and there continues to be inflow into the lake from the upper basin,” Gust said Friday. “A 2- to

3-foot rise is a very strong possibility.”

Devils Lake and its now-adjoining Stump Lake to the east reached a record 1,450.7 feet before freezing last fall at about 1,450 feet. The lake has risen about two-tenths of an inch since early December. Current readings are at about 1,450.08 feet.

Much of the rise is attributed to continued inflow from the upper chain of lakes, and possibly local subsoil drainage below the ice and frost layers, according to Gust.

Local flood watchers quietly disagreed with the weather service when it lowered the flood prospects two weeks ago, arguing that soil moisture appeared to be greater this year than in 2009 throughout much of the upper basin. The latest outlook now is in line with the local opinion.

Devils Lake typically receives a larger portion of its snowmelt runoff through local thaw and upper basin inflows during April, plus additional inflow and rainfall in May and June.

The lake typically reaches its highest annual elevation by late June or early July, when evaporation balances remaining inflow and rainfall. The lake normally stabilizes or begins to fall during mid- to late summer.


Kevin Bonham is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.