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Devils Lake to see even bigger outlet plans

The North Dakota State Water Commission has approved spending $4.2 million for engineering to design new and bigger outlets from Devils Lake that could bring more relief to the chronically flooded lake within a year.

The North Dakota State Water Commission has approved spending $4.2 million for engineering to design new and bigger outlets from Devils Lake that could bring more relief to the chronically flooded lake within a year.

The money will be spent on three projects that ultimately could cost up to $50 million. The $4.2 million breaks down this way:

- $1.5 million to design a 100-cubic-feet-per-second expansion -- or parallel outlet -- to the existing 250-cfs west-end Devils Lake Outlet from Round Lake to the Sheyenne River.

- $2.2 million for a potential gravity outlet somewhere on East Devils Lake. Several potential routes will be studied. The Water Commission plans to hire an outside engineering firm for the design project.

- A $500,000 geotechnical analysis for some kind of a control structure to prevent an uncontrolled spill from Stump Lake to the Tolna Coulee, which runs into the Sheyenne River.

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The analysis would be done along the perimeter of Stump Lake, where it would flow to the Tolna Coulee, State Engineer Todd Sando said.

"We're looking at trying to build a structure on upstream side of the divide, to prevent it from washing out the very upstream, upper end," he said. "We'd allow erosion through the divide area, and we would manage the amount of water coming out.

"We'd like to get in there this winter, when it's frozen, because a lot of the work is done in the water."

Devils Lake reached a record 1,452.1 feet above sea level this year, just 6 feet below the point where it would spill uncontrollably from Stump Lake to the Sheyenne River, potentially endangering cities and farms downstream.

The lake has risen nearly 30 feet and quadrupled in size since 1993.

The Water Commission wants to design projects to move more water out of Devils Lake in a controlled manner, to avoid a potential catastrophe, Sando said.

Once design is completed, the state would apply for necessary permits. He indicated a new outlet could be operational within a year.

Meanwhile, Devils Lake basin and state officials still are waiting for a federal interagency task force to complete and release an action plan to deal with Devils Lake flooding. The report originally was due in September but was delayed to study an environmental review of the potential options.

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"We need to keep moving because we just don't know where the federal government's going to land on this issue," Sando said. "And right now, they're not landing."

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