Seeing it through

Harry Lipsiea Journal Reporter
During a visit to a pump station near Devils Lake, mayor Richard Johnson, left, U.S. Senator John Hoeven and city engineer Mike Grafsgaard discuss the embankment project Wednesday morning. City and county officials participated in a tour during Hoeven's visit to the Lake Region.

Devils Lake mayor Dick Johnson vividly remembers a moment in which U.S. Senator John Hoeven, who was the governor of North Dakota, realized the Lake Region's need for assistance due to ongoing flood problems.

"We were on a tour of the area, looking onto a number of homes that were completely surrounded by water and with tears in your eyes you said, "We need to do something about this," Johnson said Wednesday at city hall. "Because of you and the efforts of many, something was done."

On Wednesday morning, Hoeven went on a completely different kind of a tour to take a look at the embankment project that protects the city of Devils Lake and surrounding land.

Beginning in 2009, $500 million has been secured to address flood protection in the area. Today, a great majority of the flood protection project is finished and the legislator visited the area to see the progress made.

"This is just extremely impressive," the senator commented about one of several pump stations in the area. "It is obvious that the construction that went into this is top notch."

Hoeven, along with representatives for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a number of city and county officials, stopped by several different areas of the embankment project during a driving tour Wednesday.

After the tour around the lake, the group stopped at Devils Lake City Hall for a roundtable discussion. A majority of the project is completed and up-and-running, officials reported. There are, however, a few maintenance issues that will be wrapped up by next summer, Judy DesHarnais, US Army Corps of Engineers, stated at the panel discussion.

"We are on track and feel very positive about the project," DesHarnais commented. "It's been a special thing to be a part of."

Much of the event included acknowledgement and thanks for the partners who helped see this project completed.

"This was entirely a team effort," Johnson said. "So many different entities came together to make this embankment a reality. There was a point in which I don't think anyone would have thought we could be in this position where the lake is stabilized."

Hoeven lauded the efforts of both city and county leaders as well as officials from different boards and organizations.

"There is only so much that can be done when we work alone. So much more is possible when a community works together for a cause," he stated. "Devils Lake is a great example of that. You have regional leaders that work well together and put in a tremendous amount of time and energy."

The panel thanked Hoeven for his continued efforts from his time as a member of the state water board to the governor's office and now as a U.S. Senator.

"You have always been an advocate of finding a solution for this problem," Johnson said of the senator.

Ramsey County Commissioner Ed Brown added, "Your leadership has played a large role in seeing this project through."

With the area's water situation improved, the city of Devils Lake has been able to enjoy growth in both population and additional businesses. It makes for an exciting time for area residents, Hoeven commented.

"I could not be more pleased with where Devils Lake is right now. At one time, the lake was seen as a challenge, now it is an absolute asset to the state," Hoeven stated. "With the added stability, there has been added growth and that is tremendously exciting. This is a great community."