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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Frustration aired at Tolna Coulee public meeting

  • Devils Lake Mayor Dick Johnson received cheers and a round of applause following his remarks at Tuesday’s public hearing with the Corps and the State Water Commission about plans for the Tolna Coulee.

     


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  • Devils Lake Mayor Dick Johnson received cheers and a round of applause following his remarks at Tuesday’s public hearing with the Corps and the State Water Commission about plans for the Tolna Coulee.
    Johnson spoke about his concerns about the changing plans for both the control structure and east Devils Lake outlet. At the Devils Lake Executive meeting he’d attended in Bismarck last Thursday, Johnson said, it appeared the plans were changing, now, and the outlet would not be operational at the same time as the control structure. He expressed his deep concerns that at this late date changes were being made in plans that all along had included both the control structure and outlet to be operational within the same time frame.
    He also expressed concern about the operating plan and costs for the two projects.
    His strongly-worded statement came on the heels of the grass roots rally at the Tolna Coulee held Monday and reflected the frutration many also expressed at the hearing. When he finished he was met with cheers and applause from the crowd in support of his statement.
    The hearing began with a nearly hour-long presentation where Bill Csajko, project director for the Corps, explained in detail what was planned for the Tolna Coulee control structure. As he spoke, murmuring through the crowd reflected the anger many later expressed during the public comments and questions.
    He was joined by Col. Michael J. Price, commander of the St. Paul District Corps and Bruce Englehardt from the State Water Department.
    During the public comments that followed the presentation a common thread ran through one after another of the questions and comments, it was clear that support for the Tolna Coulee control structure had eroded. Fears were expressed that it would hold back water that would flow naturally.
    Paul Becker, Ramsey County Water Resource Board, said they had passed a resolution in opposition to the outlet on May 12, 2011.
    Julie Schemionek said, “If you hear mistrust from us it’s because you’ve earned it.” She reminded the representatives from the Corps that in 1979 Dean Hildebrand had said in a statement that 1,430 would be devastating to the city of Devils Lake. She shared that headline  from the Devils Lake Journal and another from 1982 expressing concern about the lake going to 1,429 from 1,427. “We’ve been fighting this battle for a long, long time,” Schemionek said.
    “We need our farmers. this community cannot exist on tourism alone. My neighbors and my family are not expendable.”
    Jeff Frith echoed her plea, “The 1,458 elevation is unacceptable. We’re damn lucky if we survive where we are right now.”
    Tammy Tollefson asked Bruce Englehardt to step in and ask the state to lower the level at which the lake would be managed. “Bruce, we’re asking you to step in on our behalf and ask for that level to be lowered, we cannot survive this,” she asked.
    Page 2 of 2 - Many other people expressed their frustrations and opinions at the microphone or from within the crowd.
    Price reminded everyone they could also submit comments by e-mail and regular mail and that they would take all comments into consideration as they go forward with their plans.
    Another public meeting is planned for today, Wednesday, May 18 at 2 p.m. in Cooperstown.