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7/11/2007 – Editorials

By Richard Peterson

OK, I was wrong. In last week’s Farmers Press I predicted the Devils Lake Outlet intake would be found to be operating just fine. In fact, a pipe connected to the screen at the intake in Round Lake was found to have a crack in it large enough for minnows to pass through.

However, a reliable source tells me there is no possibility those particular minnows found in the outlet canal could have gone through the mesh screen at the gravel and sand filter on the hill south of Round Lake. Officials aren’t saying so, but the likelihood is that those minnows were "planted."

But we have to remember one thing. The mesh screen is about one-quarter of an inch square. So anything smaller than that could get from Devils Lake into the outlet canal, be deposited in the Sheyenne River and ultimately end up in Hudson Bay. Canada is concerned that fish diseases and parasites could infect Lake Winnipeg and adversely affect the walleye fishing industry there.

I still think that’s a long shot because waterfowl regularly move between Devils Lake and the Sheyenne River and they’ve done so for thousands of years. It would seem that any fish diseases in Devils Lake would already be present in the Sheyenne River, the Red River and Lake Winnipeg, carried there by waterfowl.

But maybe not. An article in the Sunday Grand Forks Herald states there are some organisms in Devils Lake that have not been found in Lake Winnipeg. The attitude of the Canadians is that North Dakota is recklessly endangering their fishing industry. The attitude of the Americans is that the Canadians haven’t looked carefully for these organisms.

The Canadians have reason to be concerned. If new fish diseases and parasites are introduced into Lake Winnipeg as a result of the Devils Lake Outlet, it may have serious consequences for the fishing industry there. If these diseases are introduced, there is no turning back the clock. The damage has been done and it can’t be undone.

A more sophisticated filter which does not allow the transfer of organisms would solve the problem. The state of North Dakota says it has no problem with a more sophisticated filter as long as the state doesn’t have to pay for it and the operation of the outlet is not halted while a new filter is installed. That filter will be extremely expensive no matter who pays for it. It could never stand a cost-benefit analysis.

But I don’t understand what the rush to move water is all about. As far as flood control is concerned, the outlet is useless. In its most wildly successful year it will never remove more than an inch of water from the lake. That’s the most we can expect from the $28 million project. That plus ongoing expenses operating it.

I said in this column on June 20 that as long as the money has already been wasted on the outlet and the land ruined, we might as well use it. In view of the new information in the Sunday Grand Forks Herald about biota from Devils Lake not being present in Lake Winnipeg, I have changed my mind.

The long and the short of it is that the outlet isn’t going to do any good for us, but it could possibly do damage to our neighbors.

Question: If there’s virtually nothing in it for us, what’s the point of pressing the issue?

Answer: Politicians who thought the outlet was the answer to solving the problem can’t let the outlet die. They can’t admit making a $28 million mistake. So we’ll be spending additional millions trying to make it move some water to massage the egos of the politicians. Like George W. Bush, they’re going to stay the course, no matter what.


Most of us take a summons for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on their civic duty that a new and ominous kind of scam has surfaced. The caller claims to be a jury coordinator. If you protest that you never received a summons for jury duty, the scammer asks you for your Social Security number and date of birth so he or she can verify the information and cancel the arrest warrant. Give out any of this information and bingo; your identity just got stolen. The scam has been reported so far in 11 states, including Oklahoma, Illinois, and Colorado. This (scam) is particularly insidious because they use intimidation over the phone to try to bully people into giving information by pretending they’re with the court system.

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