The Devils Lake Outlet: Flowing at full capacity

Louise Oleson, Editor
The Devils Lake Outlet is seen in the two photos above. It is flowing at full capacity, presently 250 cfs.

Thanks to the warmer temperatures plus the west-end outlet running at 250 cfs Devils Lake residents have seen slight lowering of the lake’s level recently.

For the past five weeks the Devils Lake Outlet has been flowing at full capacity. New larger, heavy-duty pumps were installed and the sides of the outlet’s channel reinforced to prevent erosion.

If the pumps can keep working at full capacity, officials believe it could lower the lake by as much as a foot.

However, when the quality of the water in the Sheyenne River is threatened, the outlet has had to go through periods where it has been shut down.

Because of the emergency situation all around the lake that’s been rising more or less steadily for 17 years, water quality standards in a portion of the Sheyenne River have been lowered to accommodate the higher inflows of Devils Lake water.

State officials say they hope increased pumping of floodwater from Devils Lake will prevent an uncontrolled overflow downsteam which could be catastrophic.

The lake is presently at just under 1,452 feet above sea level, only six feet from the 1,458 elevation where an uncontrolled overflow could happen.

All experts who have studied the situation predict that the wet cycle the region is experiencing could continue another 10, 20, 30 maybe even 60 years or longer.

Meanwhile a federal task force has been charged with finding both short-term and long-term solutions to  Devils Lake flooding. They have a September deadline to come up with recommendations that would address the needs of the entire Devils Lake Basin and protect those downstream from a potential disaster.