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Sen. Conrad asks for Army Corp of Engineer's help

Sen. Kent Conrad is lobbying federal officials to accelerate flood protection projects in the Devils Lake Basin and the Red River Valley. Conrad met Friday with the top leadership from the Army Corps of Engineers -- including Commanding Gen. Robe...

Sen. Kent Conrad is lobbying federal officials to accelerate flood protection projects in the Devils Lake Basin and the Red River Valley.

Conrad met Friday with the top leadership from the Army Corps of Engineers -- including Commanding Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp and Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations Maj. Gen. William T. Grisoli -- for a briefing on Devils Lake, the Fargo-Moorhead Metro flood protection project, spring flood fight preparations and the Lake Sakakawea surplus water report.

"Given the dire threat posed by record flooding in Devils Lake and projections for major flooding across the state, I've asked the Corps to ensure our communities get the assistance they need in the short term while also giving our ongoing permanent flood relief projects priority consideration," Conrad said. "Gen. Van Antwerp and other Corps leadership are very familiar with the challenges we face in North Dakota, and I'm hopeful that we will continue to see significant and timely progress made in Devils Lake, Fargo and surrounding communities in the coming months."

Conrad assured the Corps that he would do everything he could in his role as Senate Budget Committee chairman to support the Corps during the Fiscal Year 2012 budget process, noting the critical role they play in shoring up the nation's aging infrastructure.

He also asked the Corps to take steps to accelerate the construction of the embankment raise to ensure the city of Devils Lake is adequately protected and to take steps to ensure protection to other areas in the basin, including the Spirit Lake Nation and Minnewaukan.

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Devils Lake reached a record elevation of 1,452.1 feet above sea level in 2010. The National Weather Service forecasts a 50-50-chance that it will reach 1,455 feet this year. That's just three feet below the elevation at which it would spill uncontrollably out of Stump Lake to the Tolna Coulee toward the Sheyenne River and downstream communities.

The lake has risen by about 30 feet and quadrupled in size since 1993. If it reaches 1,455 feet this year, it will grow by another 30,000 acres.

The ice-covered lake was at 1,451.7 feet on Friday. It has risen about one-half foot since freeze-up.

Conrad urged the Corps to make good on the commitment of the federal working group to expedite any permit requests the state may make related to the east end outlet or a control structure at the Tolna Coulee to prevent a catastrophic overflow.

Conrad and the Corps leadership also reviewed the status of the Fargo-Moorhead metro flood project, specifically the upstream impacts and the diversion alignment as well as fiscal year 2011 funding to complete the feasibility study.

Conrad also asked the Corps to commit resources to begin construction of a permanent $7.2 million flood protection project in Grafton.

Bonham is a reporter at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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