Devils Lake hits record elevationDevils Lake apparently has reached another modern-history record elevation — and the ice isn’t off the lake.
By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald
Devils Lake apparently has reached another modern-history record elevation — and the ice isn’t off the lake.
The official gauge reached 1,452.11 feet above sea level at 2 p.m. Monday, topping the record of 1,452.05 feet set June 27, 2010.
“It’s going to continue to go up,” Devils Lake Joint Water Resource Board Manager Jeff Frith said. “The ice is still on it, and a lot of coulees still have ice on them, too.”
The lake has risen by about 30 feet and quadrupled in size since 1993, and now sits just 6 feet below the elevation at which it will spill out of adjoining Stump Lake to the Tolna Coulee and Sheyenne River.
The National Weather Service forecast issued March 25 lists a 50-50 chance the lake will reach 1,454.8 feet this year, and a 40 percent chance it will hit 1,455 feet.
Frith and many of his colleagues in the Devils Lake Basin believe the lake will surpass 1,455 feet.
For the first time that anybody can recall, the ice-covered lake has been rising since freeze-up last fall. It was at 1,451.24 feet in November.
“What’s causing it to rise is the local runoff,” Frith said. “A lot of water from the coulees isn’t coming in a big way yet, and we still have a lot of snow in the northern basin that has yet to be melted.”
The lake ice usually is gone by early to mid-April, he said. In recent years, the lake has risen a half-inch to an inch per day from early May until the summer peak, which usually occurs in late June to early July, before evaporation and the state’s outlet begin to relieve some of the pressure.
The state of North Dakota plans to build a 350-cubic-foot-per-second outlet in the next year from East Devils Lake to the Tolna Coulee and to build a control structure designed to prevent an uncontrolled spill.
When those projects, which carry a total price tag of $60 million $90 million, are completed, the state intends to expand its current 250-cfs west end outlet to 350 cfs.
At 250 cfs, the west end outlet can release about 100,000 acre-feet of water in six or seven months of annual operation. It does not run in the winter.
However, that 600 to 700 cfs that could be flowing through outlets next year is just about half of the normal inflows from the upper basin the past couple of years.
Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.