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7/6/2005 – Editorials

By Richard Peterson

There’s little doubt that Devils Lake will exceed its all-time modern day high of 1449.1. Then it will go down as water continues to flow into Stump Lake.
Stump Lake’s surface elevation on Jan. 1, 2004 was 1414.53. On Jan. 1, 2005 it was 1424.76, a rise of more than 10 feet in a year. Stump Lake is expected to rise to approximately 1435 by the end of this year. Then it will have about another 11 feet to rise, at which point Devils Lake and Stump Lake will become one. When that happens Stump Lake ceases to be a relief valve and the two lakes will begin rising as one if the wet cycle continues. If the lakes continue their rise another 11 feet or so to 1457 they will begin spilling into the Sheyenne River. By that time we’ll be long gone.
But nobody knows whether the water will continue rising. It might stop tomorrow and go down. Geologists have determined that in the last 10,000 years Devils Lake has flowed into Stump Lake many, many times. But it has flowed into the Sheyenne only on a few occasions.
When people tell you that the problem is caused by drainage, they’re all wet. The problem is caused by additional rainfall. When will the wet cycle end? Nobody knows. It might end tomorrow or it might go on for decades. We probably won’t know we’re out of the wet cycle until 10 years or so after it ends.
Minnewaukan is viable only to about a level of 1452 or so. By that time I expect the sewer will fail because groundwater will infiltrate so heavily the pumps will not be able to remove the water. Oh, from an engineering standpoint it would be possible to build a dike and install a watertight sewer system. But that would take many millions of dollars. Certainly more than the town of Minnewaukan is worth. Without a sewer system a town can’t exist. If the wet cycle continues and the lake continues rising Minnewaukan is simply doomed.
Right now the pumps in the main sewer lift station can’t keep up. As water in the lift station rises it will eventually rise high enough so gravity will force sewage and groundwater into basements. The city has no choice but to pump sewage out of the lift station directly into the lake to forestall such an occurrence.
This happened last year when we got lots of rain around Memorial Day. It’s happening again this year. And it will continue to happen because the city just doesn’t have the $16,000 for a larger pump. The city’s water and sewer fund is already in the red to the tune of about $28,000.
We had hoped the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would step up to the plate last year to help with new pumps. This was not to be. Last year FEMA provided funds for the rental of pumps to pump the sewage into the lake. FEMA will probably do that again this year if a presidential disaster is declared. But permanently fixing the sewage problem is apparently not a priority.
What a change the Bush Administration’s position today is from the Clinton Administration’s position. I remember very well when James Lee Witt, the top dog in FEMA under Clinton came to the Sivert Thompson Center on Graham’s Island and said (maybe not in these exact words), "We are going to fix these problems so we don’t have to revisit them year after year." Witt was true to his word.
The conservatives are at it again. They’re pushing hard for a flag burning amendment, wasting time and effort on an item of little importance. They wasted time on the Terri Schiavo case, shamelessly getting the federal government to stick its nose into the private affairs of citizens. They want the federal government to make decisions about abortion instead of the people involved. They pushed through the No Child Left Behind Act which results in major federal intrusion into local school decisions.
Conservatives want the government to make all the decisions while preaching the exact opposite.
We don’t have a problem with flag burning, but passing an amendment will create that exact problem. Burning flags will be the ultimate protest, resulting in martyrs. Anyone who burns a US Flag needs a good punch in the nose, not a protracted legal process in which the protester gets the publicity he or she wants.
This amendment to our constitution is simply not needed. And we don’t need any of the other constitutional amendments the conservatives want to shove down our throats, either: balanced budget (don’t laugh when I tell you President Bush is in favor of the balanced budget amendment), abortion, prayer in schools, etc.
Why do they push these hot-button issues? Because playing politics is easier than addressing the issues they should be addressing: the war, unfair tax breaks for the wealthy, the massive federal deficit, the Medicare shortfall, the imbalance of trade with China, the Social Security problem, the cost of prescription drugs and a host of other pressing problems.
Instead they concentrate on the non-issue of flag burning. It’s disgusting.

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