Botched hydro modeling - Devils Lake headed for record
- Botched hydro modeling - Devils Lake headed for record
According to the Grand Forks Herald, National Weather Service staff
"the new outlook is not due to any unexpected precipitation in the
Devils Lake basin but rather the result of changes to evaporation
Posted on Wed, Apr. 26, 2006
Devils Lake headed for record
Apr. 26, 2006
BISMARCK, N.D. - Devils Lake is almost certain to hit a record high
this summer, swallowing another 5,000 acres of land, officials say.
If that occurs, the lake will be 3 1/2 times the size it was 13
years ago, when the region began experiencing a string of
excessively wet years, Ramsey County Commissioner Joe Belford said
"Every year it just seems to creep up a little higher," he said.
The latest outlook from the National Weather Service says there is
about a 98 percent chance the lake will hit 1,449.35 feet above sea
level. The present record level is 1,449.1 feet set in June 2004.
"With probabilities, you don't say 100 percent," said Mike Lukes, a
weather service hydrologist in Grand Forks. "But 98, 99 percent,
it's going to hit a record according to the model output."
In March, the weather service estimated the chance of the lake
hitting a record at only 20 percent. Lukes said the new outlook is
not due to any unexpected precipitation in the Devils Lake basin but
rather the result of changes to evaporation estimates.
The lake on Wednesday afternoon was at 1,448.87 feet, the weather
Belford said other than losing more land to the lake, a record high
presents little cause for worry. A dike protects the city of Devils
Lake to a lake level of 1,454 feet. And "We've spent close to $600
million to date" on infrastructure improvements in the region to
handle the rising lake, Belford said.
Among the projects is a $27 million state-built outlet to drain
Devils Lake floodwaters into the Sheyenne River and ultimately the
Red River. The 14-mile stretch of pipeline and open ditch began
operating last fall and is set to resume pumping on Monday.
State Water Commission engineers estimate that if the outlet pumps
at capacity, it could remove 4 inches to 6 inches of water from the
lake each year.
Pumping was restricted last fall because of high sulfate levels in
the Sheyenne River. A state Health Department permit that governs
the outlet's operation does not allow downstream water to exceed a
certain amount of sulfate, which exists naturally in soil and ground
State Engineer Dale Frink said earlier this month that sulfate
levels in the Sheyenne this spring are higher than anticipated. He
and other Water Commission officials were out of the office
Wednesday afternoon and not available for comment.
Lukes said the flood outlook, which is for May through September,
takes the outlet into account.
James Connaughton, chairman of the White House's Council on
Environmental Quality, told reporters in Canada that plans are under
way to install either an ozone barrier or ultraviolet filtering
system for the outlet, the Winnipeg Free Press reported. Connaughton
said he hoped to have a recommended option by the end of May.
Don Canton, a spokesman for Gov. John Hoeven, said Wednesday that he
was not aware of any developments in ongoing talks about a new
filter. Lance Gaebe, a Hoeven policy adviser, said North Dakota
would resume outlet operations on Monday as planned.
"We have always said ... we have no opposition to an advanced
filter, provided North Dakota incurs no cost and it doesn't impede
the progress of the outlet," Canton said.
The outlet began operating last fall under guidelines that say,
among other things, that the U.S. and Canadian governments will
cooperate in the design and construction of an advanced filter.
Canadian officials have continued pushing for it.
Officials north of the border fear the outlet will introduce
unwanted aquatic species into their waters, a fear North Dakota
officials say is unfounded.
"Our studies have shown there's no water quality issue there, and we
don't believe we need an advanced filter," Canton said.
Officials have said that a more advanced filter could cost $18
million or more to build. State officials say the current 18-foot-
thick rock filter is adequate.
"We're not going to delay operation of the outlet," Canton said.