WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 28, 2010, 03:58 PM

VCSU Professor: Sheyenne's water quality at risk with a Devils Lake outlet

Valley City, ND (WDAY TV) - People in Devils Lake are fighting for an east outlet to drain water and keep the risk of future floods low, but doing that would increase sulfate levels in the Sheyenne, a very clean river. Just how clean? An expert says the answer lies within the river.

Aquatic Biologist and professor at Valley City State University Dr. Andre DeLorm is with a couple students pulling mussel after mussel after mussel out of the Sheyenne River near Valley City.

"We've found 15 different species of mussels across the state. You could find 12 of them in the Sheyenne."

Delorm has studied nearly every river in North Dakota and says the Sheyenne, because of its water quality, has by far the most diverse and largest population of mussel species lying in it.

"They help filter the water so having mussels is good for the water quality, but it's also bad because if you have bad water quality it's more likely to kill the mussels."

Delorm worries this pearl in their backyard could soon be wiped out. He says all of these mussels will be gone if Devils Lake gets an east outlet and flushes bad water downstream.

"I just love being in the river and I just feel that people, you got to at least think about it because the frustrating part to me is they're pushing for the east outlet which is the worst possible water. If you're going to do it, if you have to do it, why aren't you taking it out of the west end?"

It'd also effect how Delorme teaches. This river is a natural hands-on laboratory.

"There is a complete difference in learning something out of a book and then first hand. You never really get that grasp of what's going on until you lay your hands on them, you hold them, and you look at them."

For now they return the mussels, confident they'll be there when the group returns, hopeful that it never changes. It is illegal to take mussels out of a river without a permit.