Concerns about inundated farms remain

Louise Oleson Journal Managing Editor
Garland Hoistad, Joel Storsteen and Dan Erickstad, three area farmers, voiced their concerns about not being adequately represented on the Devils Lake Executive Committee. Maj. Gen. John Peabody chairing the meeting, was very interested in hearing their complaints and providing a way that their concerns could be addressed.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Mississippi Valley Division Commander Maj. Gen. John Peabody chaired Wednesday’s meeting of the Devils Lake Executive Committee held in the Ramsey County Courthouse.

The meeting was an opportunity to evaluate each action item on the committee’s plan by hearing from the representative agencies or governmental entities around the table.

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple opened his remarks reminding everyone how far they’ve come since the committee was formed.

He pointed out how much has been accomplished. Although because of the long, hard winter and the inflows into Devils Lake were the third highest on record, the situation is under control.

“The last big goal once we get the infrastructure in place is to find some way to get our farmland back.

“We won’t let up for one minute. Our determination is as focused as it’s ever been to find a way to help the farmers with inundated land.” Dalrymple said.

The order of the meeting was suspended because representatives from the railroads were present and because they had not normally been part of the committee, it was decided to allow them to give their update prior to continuing the order of business.

Brian Sweeney from Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail talked about the cooperative efforts of the railroad, the state of North Dakota and Amtrak to address the needs of the Devils Lake basin.

He said that phase one was completed last year and that phase two is 90 percent completed to date. They will be raising the track another five feet outside of Churchs Ferry where it was in danger of inundation. When that is accomplished the track will have been raised a total of 10 feet, a bridge replaced and new track laid along a 50 mile span.

Following his update, the meeting resumed with Bonnie Greenleaf giving a little of the history of what brought them to this point in time.

She outlined the circumstances that led to the present 12 miles of embankment that exists now to protect Devils Lake.

Greenleaf pointed out the efforts of the many agencies that worked together to accomplish all that they have in this relatively short period of time.

She also noted the remaining things that need to be done before their work is completed.

Three area farmers who were present in the audience voiced their concerns about inundated farmland when given theopportunity to ask questions.

“How about the impact to all of us.?”

Maj. Gen. John Peabody chairing the meeting was very interested in hearing their complaints and asked them to speak to him during the break.

Then the reports continued around the table, each representative was asked to evaluate each action item to determine if it has been accomplished, completed or if it was no longer being considered or if it was in progress.

Prior to the beginning of the meeting Devils Lake Mayor Dick Johnson met briefly with the Governor and expressed how grateful the community of Devils Lake is for all the help they have received.

“We’re a grateful community,” he said, pointing out all the money that has been spent through the years.

“Five years ago I never would have believed we would be where we are today,” he added.

He, too, expressed his concern about the many farmers who were still suffering throughout the area. The common thread of the exchange was gratitude for all that has been done and emphasizing there are still many who are in need of some sort of compensation for storing water on their land.

The mayor and governor and others expressed the same hope that more water could be taken off the lake before winter sets in and that a normal year with normal inflows would be ahead.

During Todd Sando’s presentation he talked about mitigation funds that are available for those whose property is impacted by flooding along the Sheyenne, for example, and encouraged anyone with damage to property or farm operations to apply. Sando works for the State Water Commission as head engineer.