ND Farmers Union asks governor to tackle Devils Lake flooding crisis

Staff reports
This photo was taken the day the staff of the North Dakota Farmers Union toured the Devils Lake Basin. It shows Highway 57 as it often looks when the wind and wave action sends debris onto its surface and makes driving a real challenge.

JAMESTOWN---This week, president of North Dakota Farmers Union, Robert Carlson, called for action in tackling the state’s Devils Lake water crisis that must be solved to preserve public safety, agricultural livelihood and economic development.

In a formal letter, Carlson requested that the Governor’s office host a joint meeting with key members from all affected communities to discuss the Tolna Coulee structure and necessary water release levels. The request for action comes following a NDFU staff tour of the area and meeting with local Farmer’s Union and co-op affiliated leaders from the Devils Lake region.

“Our local Farmers Union leaders believe the best option to move an adequate amount of water is to use gravity through the Tolna Coulee with properly controlled management of downstream water flow.” Carlson said.

During the NDFU visit, staff members heard directly from local producers who have lost thousands of acres of viable crop land to flooding or have been land-locked and can’t get to their farmland. Carlson added, “The personal stories of people losing their livelihood, generation farmsteads and infrastructure are heart breaking.”

Devils Lake has more than tripled its surface area since 1993. Water is flowing in from the basin watersheds at an alarming rate. It is forecasted that the lake will rise another two to three feet by mid-summer. This means that another 50,000 to 60,000 acres of farmland, farm homes, roads and another small town will be inundated. It is estimated that the value of direct crop losses for 2011 will be $52,757,993. Total economic losses are estimated to reach $194,419,000.

“As you well know, this is not a situation that will resolve itself. Action must be taken now to ensure a future for the Devils Lake region. Since the downstream communities of Lisbon, West Fargo, Valley City and others would be impacted on any action taken in Devils Lake, the elected leaders of each of these communities should have a role in determining a solution. I am calling the state of North Dakota to step up and lead this region,” Carlson concluded.

North Dakota Farmers Union stands with our membership and supports policy that reads: “The Devils Lake Basin continues to have problems with excess water and flooding. We support the outlet for stabilization and emergency relief, as long as the quantity and quality of water being sent downstream is controlled. We urge the North Dakota Legislature to mandate the clean-out of the natural Stump Lake outlet and proper and controlled management of downstream water flow.”

The letter is signed by Robert L. Carlson, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union and dated June 9, 2011.