City requests immediate emergency action

Louise Oleson, Editor
ND?District 15 Representative Curt Hofstad had questions about the city’s latest move to get help with area flooding.

“I have prepared a declaration of an emergency,” Devils Lake Mayor Dick Johnson said as he convened the special meeting of the Devils Lake City Commission at noon on Thursday, Sept. 23.

You could hear a pin drop in City Hall as the mayor read the proclaimation:

“Whereas, the Devils Lake area will suffer damage to roads, homes, businesses and other public facilities caused by excessive spring run-off occuring in April through July 2011; and . . .

Whereas, the latest forecast from  the National Weather Service suggests lake elevations that will threaten structures, farmland, grazing land, homes, utilities, trees, parks, roadways, embankments; and . . .

Whereas, the impact of these damages threaten the health, well-being and public safety of citizens in the city of Devils Lake; and . . .

Whereas, the cost of cleanup, repair and replacement of such damaged facilities is far in excess of available local resources; and . . .

Whereas, Devils Lake continues to remain at record lake elevations nearing freeze-up, the Devils Lake Basin is over saturated, area basin lakes are at capacity and coulees continue to flow.

Now, therefore, be it resolved, the Devils Lake City Commission, declares a state of emergency exists in the city of Devils Lake, North Dakota and is requesting IMMEDIATE?EMERGENCY?ACTION from the State of North Dakota. This action includes the construction of an east-end outlet with a control structure and an upgrade of the west-end outlet to increase capacity.

Dated at Devils Lake, ND, this 23rd day of September, 2010.”

Johnson said they had prepared the statement to send to the Governor requesting his assistance for immediate action to begin constructing an east-end outlet.

Commissioner Tim Heisler said, “Our resources are exhausted. We can’t wait any longer, we must go forward.”

Ramsey County Commission  President Joe Belford informed the mayor that the county was prepared to meet, as well, and to act in support of the declaration.

“With the predictions coming out of the weather service, we have no choice. This La Niña is supposed to be even stronger than they thought, we have to expect more blizzards, a wet spring, we need to move water off this lake as soon as we can, this is urgent,” he stated.

District 15 Rep. Curt Hofstad asked what the city’s intent was with this declaration in light of the vote in Bismarck on Monday to introduce a bill in congress.

“We need to do this together, all of us on the same page, with the same voice, to get this done,” was Johnson’s response.

“We cannot wait until the Federal report comes out, especially after this delay of another 100 days. A plan must be made, a site chosen for the control structure and it needs to be designed - we cannot wait any longer,” Johnson said.

“We’re in serious trouble,” Heisler emphasized, “another foot or two will be devastating to all of us.”

He made the motion to issue the emergency declaration and Commissioner Rick Morse seconded it. It was passed unanimously.

Scott Stofferahn from Sen. Kent Conrad’s office informed the gathering that the state’s congressional delegation had met with Vice President Joe Biden that day, Thursday, Sept. 23, to address the request to the EPA to adjust the standard in the Sheyenne. He assured the mayor and the commission that their congressional delegation was working on the situation and that they had Biden’s support, as well.

Johnson said there was a great deal that needed to be done, “The task is huge, but we’ve got to move on.”

After addressing a couple of other items, including a request from Forward Devils Lake for funds from the Growth Fund to assist anyone wanting to build multi-family dwelling units in the city limits. The grant would help encourage contractors who are interested in helping meet a growing need in the community for housing.

The City Commission adjourned its meeting and the Ramsey County Commission convened theirs so they could vote to support the city’s action in declaring a state of emergency.

Their vote was unanimous, as well.

Jeff Frith informed the meeting that a strategic planning session has been set for Oct. 6 to work on some of the specific details with the nine counties and all the communities located around the lake. “We need to come up with a plan from the basin that we all can agree on so we have a united voice,” Frith said.

Morse and Johnson said they would be willing to be part of that session. Frith asked that Mike Grafsgaard also attend and participate in his capacity for the city.

Belford and Commissioner Bill Mertens would be part of this session representing the County.