County commissions in Ramsey and Benson counties issued emergency declarations Tuesday in anticipation of another spring and summer of record flooding in the Devils Lake Basin.
The declarations follow on the heels of Devils Lake City Commission, which approved a similar declaration Monday.
The National Weather Service spring flood forecast currently lists a 50 percent chance that Devils Lake will rise to a record 1,451.7 feet above sea level this year, a foot higher than the record 1,450.7 feet it reached in June 2009. The weather service says there's a 30 percent chance the lake could rise to 1,452 feet.
The lake has risen about 27 feet and has tripled in size in the past 17 years, including about 3.5 feet in 2009. That has resulted in about $1 billion in damage and improvements in public infrastructure. Another $200 million will be spent over the next couple of years to raise state highways another 5 feet, to 1,460 feet, and to raise and convert a dike protecting the City of Devils Lake into a dam.
If the lake reaches 1,458 feet, it will begin to spill naturally from Stump Lake through the Tolna Coulee to the Sheyenne River.
Each foot the lake rises covers another estimated 10,000 acres of land. The lake froze this winter at an elevation of about 1,450.1 feet.
If the lake reaches 1,452 feet this year, it likely will cause major problems for the city of Minnewaukan, N.D., located in Benson County, and for Grahams Island State Park. The only road leading to Graham's Island is at an elevation of just above 1,455 feet, and officials say wave action on windy days quickly erodes the base of the road.
The Devils Lake City Commission also agreed to send a letter to communities downstream, urging them to seek state help to prepare for such an event, which is not expected to happen in the next year or two.
Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.