John Froelich, Valley City, N.D., column: DL solution starts with armored coulee
By John Froelich VALLEY CITY, N.D. -- It is time for a common sense solution to the Devils Lake water problem. I have visited the Devils Lake area several times and attended many meetings on the subject. As a Barnes County resident and a Barnes C...
By John Froelich
VALLEY CITY, N.D. -- It is time for a common sense solution to the Devils Lake water problem.
I have visited the Devils Lake area several times and attended many meetings on the subject. As a Barnes County resident and a Barnes County commissioner, I am concerned about a solution; but these are my opinions and don't necessarily reflect those of the Barnes County Commission.
The Tolna Coulee needs to be immediately armored at 1,458 feet to prevent a possible disaster. This can be done at a low cost by driving piling 40 feet deep and rip-rapping with rock. The area is only about 500 feet wide.
It is time to quit using a Tolna Coulee blowout as a threat to force Valley City and other downstream interests to take water. It is time for the Army Corps of Engineers and the North Dakota State Water Commission to act and quit playing politics on this matter.
There also needs to be a moratorium on all future agricultural drainage in the Devils Lake Basin and all of North Dakota, including Barnes County. People who say agricultural drainage doesn't contribute to flooding aren't being honest with themselves.
Take two containers of water, then pour out 80 percent of one and 100 percent of the other. Observe which one makes the biggest puddle.
Agricultural drainage first was approved by the North Dakota Legislature in 1883, before statehood. In the 1950s, the Soil Conservation Service was cost-sharing agricultural drainage, while the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation office was controlling the planting of wheat acres. We had two government agencies working at cross purposes.
Richard Betting of Valley City, N.D., is correct: We need to store water before it gets to the city of Devils Lake. This can be done by a waffle plan and by building water retention dams on the coulees that drain into Devils Lake.
The problem is that Devils Lake wants it both ways. The city wants to protect the lake's fishery and move the excess water downstream. In the early 1990s, when Devils Lake was low, there was discussion about diverting water from the Sheyenne River and/or Garrison Reservoir or even keeping water from flowing to the East Bay.
I don't have a problem with protecting their fishery as long as they are practicing water retention in the upper basin.
The final thing that needs to happen is a meaningful outlet on the West Bay. The present pumping outlet doesn't cut it. It doesn't move enough water, and it takes too much electricity to operate.
I would suggest an outlet with a control gate and channel to the Sheyenne that would move 1,000 cubic feet per second. This could be operated in the winter months when there is less river bank erosion and the lake could be lowered for spring runoff.
This has a downside for Lake Ashtabula. With 750 ml of sulfates coming in and 450ml going out, this will make Lake Ashtabula a settling pond. I hope that the spring runoff into the lake will move some of these sulfates out.
In sum, we need to immediately armor the Tolna Coulee, we need meaningful water retention in the upper basin and we need a meaningful outlet on the West Bay. This will take courage and compromise. Let's get it done.
Froelich is a Barnes County commissioner.