Meetings hammer out issues with the state outlet

Louise Oleson, Editor
Bruce Engelhardt from the State Water Commission answers a landowner’s questions about damage to his property from the water flowing out of the state’s outlet on the west end of Devils Lake.

“If you double the flow from the outlet, we’re in trouble,” Odin Gleason said.

He’s a farmer from Eddy County who farms both sides of the Sheyenne River. His concerns were about the amount of water released into the Sheyenne River when the Devils Lake Outlet is running at full capacity.

“When it was running at full capacity this last summer, it was so deep we could drive cattle across but it was too deep for the pickup,” Gleason said.

“As soon as you shut the pumps down, it went right down again,” he added.

The hearings have been held so area residents and landowners along the affected outlet canal and river could voice their fears and concerns as the Joint Basin Water Board has applied for a drain permit that would allow increased flows from the west-end outlet on Devils Lake.

Representatives from Ramsey, Towner, Benson and Eddy County Water Resource Districts met Monday to hammer out some of those concerns surrounding the outlet. There were so many issues to discuss and numerous questions that they held two meetings on the same day, one in the morning that started at 9 a.m. and one in the afternoon starting at 1 p.m.

At the afternoon meeting, the State Water Commission was represented by Bruce Engelhardt. He was able to address many of the questions from landowners and those he was unable to answer, he promised to address once he returned to Bismarck.

One concern voiced by more than one landowner was a lack of communication from the State Water Commission.

One landowner said he had sent a letter in May of 2009 and had yet to receive a response from anyone.

“We feel like we are being ignored,” he said.

Engelhardt apologized for the communication breakdown.

He reported the two types of problems they’d been informed of this past summer had been taken care of. The leaking in three or four areas had been repaired and the overflows were caused by a failure in telemetry. “We are redoing it so it should be better this year,” he promised.

He said if there were other problems, his office had not been informed.

“Let us know if there are problems, we will investigate them and let you know if they are caused by the outlet or not,” Engelhardt assured the property owners.

“If you think the outlet has contributed to the erosion or flooding of your land, report it and it will be investigated on a case by case basis. If it is our responsibility, land owners will be fairly conpensated,” he added.

The residents of Eddy County voiced concerns about the Vouret Dam which is in need of repairs, a bridge in danger of being flooded out and two Texas crossings.

Paul Becker, who chaired the afternoon meeting, thanked everyone for their comments and asked if there were additional comments, questions or statements those in attendance wanted to include in the comment period, they should submit them to him.

Before the permit is granted or denied to allow the outlet to run at a higher cfs, hearings were held so those in favor and those opposed could have their voices heard. The comments and concerns discussed Monday at the two meetings of the Water Resource Districts stemmed from those hearings. Discussion of those questions and concerns is part of the legal process before a decision can be made.

Paul Becker, second from left, chaired the meeting held Monday afternoon to discuss issues and questions about the west-end outlet on Devils Lake.