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Associated Press, Published March 24 2013

Residents near Devils Lake fear 2012 progress lost

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. — Residents near Devils Lake in northeastern North Dakota fear that last year's progress in gaining back land from the lake could be lost this year if the National Weather Service's predictions hold true.

The latest flood outlook gives about a 25 percent chance the lake will surpass its record elevation of 1,454.3 feet above sea level, set in June 2011. That would wipe out last year's 3-foot drop that saw about 30,000 acres of land resurface and gave residents hope that the worst was behind them.

“It takes away the optimism we had last year,” said Jeff Frith, manager of the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource District. “Landowners were getting some of their land back and were reclaiming it, putting it back into production.”

Devils Lake has been swallowing up thousands of acres of farmland since a wet cycle began in the early 1990s and caused the lake to quadruple in size. It rose about 32 feet between 1992 and 2011.

About $1.5 billion has been spent in the past 20 years to raise roads, move homes and business and to build other infrastructure, including outlets from the lake to the Sheyenne River.

A levee system protects the city of Devils Lake, but Frith tells the Grand Forks Herald that the runoff in the upper basin could rival record numbers and make travel in the region difficult.

“We thought we had bought ourselves some breathing room last year,” Frith said. “But it looks like all of that may be gone.”