Joe Belford was selected for the 2012 Devils Lake Basin Water Stewardship Award at the 49th annual Joint North Dakota Water Convention and Irrigation Expo on Thursday, Dec. 6 during the convention’s awards banquet.

Joe Belford was selected for the 2012 Devils Lake Basin Water Stewardship Award at the 49th annual Joint North Dakota Water Convention and Irrigation Expo on Thursday, Dec. 6 during the convention’s awards banquet.   

The award is presented to an individual, group or organization who have contributed to assisting with the implementation of the board’s mission statement: “Development of a comprehensive, coordinated water management plan for the Devils Lake Basin that will protect the economic and biological values of the Devils Lake Basin while providing optimum benefits for agriculture, wildlife, and fisheries, recreation and economic development for its citizens.”

Nominees must have demonstrated a commitment to improving the quality of life for the Devils Lake Basin community through their efforts to improve land and water stewardship in the basin.

Previous award winners were Dry Lake-Grand Harbor Watershed Management project (’04), Ernie Hagen and the Minnewaukan School ‘OWLS’ project (’05),  Nikolaisen WPA project (’06), the Greater Ramsey Water District (’07),  Russell L. Dushinske (’08) and Co-Winners Mike Connor and Curt Hofstad (’09), New City – Zion Township Creek Restoration Project (’10) and Lynn Schlueter of the N.D. Game & Fish Department for the Loma Carp Barrier Project (’11).

“For the better part of the past four decades Joe has spent a great deal of his life ensuring that Devils Lake, Ramsey County and, through multi-jurisdictional boards, the entire region is a better place to live for all.  As an elected public official many times you are faced with difficult decisions to make knowing full well you are not going to be able to please everyone.  And as an elected public official you have personal sacrifices and choices you have to make on how to spend your time. Even though this recipient had health issues, was a dedicated family man, a private business owner and had personal tragedies along the way his dedication to his constituents and the region that he loves never wavered.

His time serving the public started with a stint on the Devils Lake City Commission in 1972 during that time he saw many changes within the community and certainly with the lake itself as there were new high elevations that hadn’t been seen since the 1800s.  In 1984 after serving the city for 12 years he decided to serve the entire county as a commissioner for Ramsey County a position he held until just a few days ago.  During that time he saw the lake go from adequate water levels in the mid 80s to worrying about a possible fish kill due to low water levels in the early 90s.  With that threat being very real he along with a few others jumped into action forming the Lake Preservation Committee, well, Joe likes to joke that they did their job too well as in early 1993 just when they were having meetings with high level officials on how to save the lake and its fishery it began to rain and the lake started rising.  Well, prevent a fish kill they did as the lake has been on the rise ever since.  With that rising water came a rising amount of problems and being one to never back down Joe took on that challenge with a determination of a pit bull.  Ramsey County and the entire region couldn’t have asked for a better advocate as Joe became a flood fighting ‘Super Hero’ appearing before the legislature, the water commission and anyone else that would listen as well as making several trips to Washington DC testifying before Congressional panels ensuring that needs were being met back home.  

If you add up all of the time just attending regularly scheduled commission meetings over that 36 year career that is 864 meetings. Add those together with the meetings that go along with all of the committee appointments associated with being a city or county commissioner and then add in all of the flood related meetings and it is easy to see how Joe chose to spend a lot of the seconds allotted to him in his life, he chose to serve his fellow man and try to make Devils Lake, Ramsey County and the entire region a better place to live.  And it is because of that dedication that the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource Board is very honored to present the 2012 Devils Lake Basin Water Stewardship Award to Mr. Joe Belford for his 36 years of public service,” reads the transcript from the award ceremony.