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Published May 29, 2013, 08:53 AM

Devils Lake could near record level this summer

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. (AP) — There is a good chance that Devils Lake will rise this summer to within a half-foot of a record elevation, swallowing up nearly a dozen square miles of land.

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. (AP) — There is a good chance that Devils Lake will rise this summer to within a half-foot of a record elevation, swallowing up nearly a dozen square miles of land.

The latest National Weather Service flood outlook says there is an equal chance that the lake will hit 1,453.8 feet this year, close to the June 2011 record of 1,454.3 feet and half a foot higher than an outlook released in early May.

More than 4 inches of rain has fallen on parts of the Devils Lake Basin over the past week and a half, and more rain is expected this week. The weather service on Wednesday issued a statement saying a slow-moving storm could drop as much as 2 more inches in northeastern North Dakota by Friday.

"This heavy rainfall would affect smaller streams and tributaries in northeast North Dakota into the Devils Lake Basin," the weather service said.

Jeff Frith, manager of the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource Board, told the Grand Forks Herald that "any more rain is not a good thing right now."

"The soils are saturated," he said. "Any capacity the soils had to hold more water has been diminished."

Nearly two decades of wet weather pushed the level of Devils Lake up 32 feet between 1992 and 2011. The lake quadrupled in size, devouring an estimated 161,000 acres of farmland. About $1.5 billion has been spent in the past 20 years to mitigate the flood damage.

The lake elevation receded by about 3 feet last year because of drier weather and an expanded manmade outlet system that transferred about 1 foot of elevation to the Sheyenne River. The outlets on each end of the lake remain closed this spring because of high water flows in the river.

"We should be able to start the pumps up as soon as the Sheyenne gets back into its banks," Frith said. "A lot will depend on the rain we get in the next week."

At the current 1,453.1 feet, the Devils Lake area covers about 195,000 acres, or about 305 square miles, according to the Herald. If the lake reaches 1,453.8 feet this year, it will cover about 202,400 acres, or about 316 square miles.

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