Grafsgaard: At the forefront of fighting Devils Lake flooding Water issues vs. flood control issues

Mike Bellmore, Features Editor
Mike Grafsgaard

Devils Lake City Engineer Mike Grafsgaard has been at the forefront of  the city’s flood fight since 1998.

He says it has been extremely time-consuming, and often times frustrating.

“The majority of time we spend coordinating with agencies to look out for things we want done well and right for the city,” says Grafsgaard.

“We want things built the best they can be and made to fit the best we can. It might not always be perfect, but we need to do the best we can to meet the requirements that are needed.”

Grafsgaard went on to say that most people want a control structure  and an outlet, and don’t want to further raise the embankment.

He says people from other areas are finally starting to realize that the steadily-rising lake is not just Devils Lake’s problem.

If, in fact, it would spill over it could be an unmitigated disaster for the entire state.

And in a way, that’s good for Devils Lake’s ongoing quest for an outlet.

The awareness factor is crucial.

“More and more people from Valley City and Fargo are realizing that,” adds Grafsgaard.

“In fact, a city commissioner from Valley City will be here Friday. He seems to be a forward thinker who wants a better understanding of the situation.”

Grafsgaard feels awareness and education are important in an eventual solution to the water problem.

He says you can’t operate on tidbits, and the more awareness the better.

Grafsgaard says he’s hopeful the Interagency Task Force can help solve the problems, and he has his fingers crossed.

Awareness of the ongoing problem seems to have gained some traction in recent months and he thinks it has changed the outlook.

It’s a rare and unique situation, and the only other lake he knows of in the entire country that is somewhat similar is the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

While some programs and agencies have changed their approach and outlook on Devils Lake, the Environmental Protection Agency remains a concern.

And that concern is fueled by the water quality issue.

“What it boils down to is you have to weigh the water quality issue with the flood control issues,” Grafsgaard stated.

“I think there has to be some give and take.”