Flood report delay no surprise for local residents

Mike Bellmore, Features Editor
Dennis Olson

On the eve of a report from an Interagency Task Force that is charged with providing solutions to the ongoing Devils Lake flooding problem, moods and opinions remain mixed.

That report had been scheduled to be released today, but the latest report is it has been delayed a couple of weeks.

That probably came as no surprise to anyone on a local level, people who seem to be increasingly frustrated with the federal response.

“I’m cautiously optimistic, but I just don’t know what to think,” says City Engineer Mike Grafsgaard.

“If it’s more of the same-old, same-old, state and local officials will have to look at other alternatives.”

Grafsgaard, who has been at the forefront of the long battle, says he doesn’t want to sound negative.

In fact, he was happy to have been along on the recent trip to Washington with an opportunity to clarify issues at the federal level.

All of the North Dakota officials understand the balancing of water quality with flooding control.

“I think we all understand here, but there seems to be a disconnect with the federal agencies.”

“You have to break the mold that doesn’t fit into the situation we have here.”

Joe Belford, a Ramsey County Commissioner who has long led the flooding battle, said he heard the report may be postponed up to two weeks.

He said he isn’t real hopeful either, but was encouraged by the EPA’s approval of 700 parts per million through the Sheyenne River to Lake Ashtabula.

“I?think they’re (federal government) is dragging their feet because they don’t know how to handle it,” said Belford.

“I didn’t get good vibrations when we were in Washington.”

Dennis Olson a local resident, thinks lake level stabilization’s sulphate levels and the issue of moving water are key issues.

“The problem is there are so many agencies involved in this,” says Olson. “We just keep building roads higher and higher, and if the water recedes, we’ll be in a huge fish bowl.”

Olson says he thinks Devils Lake residents have been accustomed to simply building roads up and nothing else seemingly gets done.

“The sense of frustration is very real because Fargo and Grand Forks seem to get help right away.”

“It’s almost like a slow-moving cancer.”

Bruce Berg, a local farmer, says people’s livelihoods should come as the first priority. He says it’s a concerted effort and fight that everybody is involved in.

Clark Steinhaus had this to say: “We’re all stewards of the land and we should leave it in better shape than when we started.”

Richard Swanson, a local trucker, said he has not heard the report but feels there are some stepping stones to go through first before the lake reaches a certain level.

“I’d really be shocked if we started running water out of here anytime soon,” he said.

“I?don’t think the feds know how to deal with it. It’s a problem that won’t go away.”

Richard Swanson