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WDAY: The News Leader

Published January 28, 2012, 09:46 PM

Living with Water: A look at Devils Lake

Devils Lake, ND (WDAY TV) -- We continue our Living With Water special, a Forum Communications project. The next five weekends, both our broadcast and print divisions will look at flooding. Tonight, the history of Devils Lake.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ, WDAY

Devils Lake, ND (WDAY TV) -- We continue our Living With Water special, a Forum Communications project. The next five weekends, both our broadcast and print divisions will look at flooding. Tonight, the history of Devils Lake.

Over the last two decades, it has grown nearly five times in size. This has caused countless hardships for people living in and around the city of Devils Lake.

Geologist say that Devils Lake Basin gets it's water storage characteristics from the way it was formed.

Donald Schwert / NDSU Geology Professor : "Where glaciers past across lands and they sort of scooped out a basin that has no connection with external drainage.

Just 20 years ago people where working on the Garrision Diversion Project to save the lake from drying up.

Dick Johnson / Devils Lake Mayor : " And that was going to bring Missouri water over. And refresh Devils Lake and ultimately provide some good water for the eastern part of the state. "

Because of political wrangling that project never happened.

And as it would turn out it wouldn't be needed. Because of a long wet cycle since 1993 the water levels on Devils Lake have risen approximately 32 feet. At it's current level it's just 3 and half feet from spilling over and draining into the Sheyenne river. Geologist says it's been about 800 years since that has happened, about the same time some other historical events where taking place. "

NDSU" "King John was signing the Magna Carta. Marco Polo was returning from China. The Black Plague was ready to sweep across Europe. "

The lake at such historic levels has meant the loss of thousands of acers. Many of them are where people made their living.

Johnson : " They didn't invest in retirement plans because of their land was their retirement. Nobody ever thought the lake would consume their entire farmstead. And all of a sudden they got nothing. "

High water levels are not all bad. It's helped increase tourism by drawing more fisherman to the area. Flood related construction projects have meant more jobs and brought people to the area.

Johnson : "Our big problem right now is housing. We have some major employers that can't get people in here. Because we don't have quality housing for them. That is being fixed. "

Mayor Johnson says this summer two new outlets on the lake will help maintain and possibly lower water levels. But future issues with lake levels are likely unavoidable.

Johnson : We are always going to have this cyclical problem because we are a closed basin. So when it's dry it's going to dry up and when it's wet we have to find a way not naturally we have to use our pumps.

Johnson says the dry fall and winter should help them keep the lake from making new geological history. In Devils Lake I'm David Schwab reporting. >

About 155-million dollars has been spent on levies to protect the city. Total expenses including building up highways is estimated at more than 1 billion dollars.

Forum Communication newspapers and broadcast will both continue our special project, Living With Water, tomorrow.

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