“The federal government did a study,” said Jim Yri, “now this is a fact, they did a study and spent $1.5 million on it.

“The federal government did a study,” said Jim Yri, “now this is a fact, they did a study and spent $1.5 million on it. The study was on Devils Lake. Their conclusion was that depending on whether it’s drier or wetter, the lake could rise or fall. I kid you not, $1.5 million.”

Jim and his wife, Diane, are the owners of West Bay Resort, near Minnewaukan. For them and other resort owners on the lake the only certainty is that the lake will rise or fall. The Yris are, like other resort owners around the lake, farmers but with much of their valuable farmland covered by twenty feet of water.

The North Dakota Water Board organized a tour in late June of the Devils Lake Basin (see “After the Flood,” Devils Lake Journal, July 5, 2018). All throughout the day and the trip the one word that kept popping up was “certainty.” Can there ever be certainty?

It would be nice if there was some certainty. Will anything ever be done so there is certainty about the lake’s level? It would be good if the resort owner and farmers had certainty. For the present and future it appears the fed’s report is the only certainty there is.

Bill Wood, of East Bay Resort, believes the certainty is the lake will drop as it has so many other times. “It may take ten or fifteen years,” he said, “but the lake will go back down. I’m trying to discourage my kids from taking this resort over.” Wood hosted the lunch for the June tour. Before lunch began, he gave a tour of his resort. Stopping at one spot that day, he pointed to the expanse of water. “That was all hay field and pasture in the late 1960s,” he said. “The lake and tourism are a huge resource right now,” he said on the phone. “But there is never any certainty. It’s all dependent on Mother Nature.

Maybe less pumping can be done and try to maintain the lake level, but then that affects the farmers on the west side of the lake who’d really like to have their land back.” Farmers on the west side have lost. Some more than seventy-five percent of their land. Some lost all. Any who wish to keep that land for farming—hoping for the lake to drop—still pay property tax on it.

The Yris still farm, but far less than they did.

“We lost about 2,000 acres of land,” said Jim. “That’s the Minnewaukan Flats out there. We used to have pasture and fields out there. There was one old farmer who lost everything, didn’t get anything for it, and I’m certain it was the stress of that that put him in the grave.” “Does this lake provide jobs and money to this area?” asked Diane Yri rhetorically. “Fishing and tourism provide a lot of money, probably more than farming used to. People like walleye. There are a lot of people with a lot of money who come here just to fish. They stay days and weeks. Why do they keep pumping the lake to lower it? Why not fix a level and leave it, and then the various organizations work together to make this area a real destination.”

For the whole story - see the print edition of the Devils Lake Journal for Friday, Aug. 10, 2018.