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2/6/2008 – Editorials

By Richard Peterson


We have an inquiry from someone who wants to purchase a Knox History Book. We have one at the Farmers Press, but wouldn’t part with it for love nor money. Does anyone have one for sale? Or maybe someone knows the address or e-mail address of the author, Thomas Newgard. He might have a few squirreled away. Newgard wrote the history in the 1960s and 1970s and published the book in 1977.


These history books are valuable resources for us. Here at the Farmers Press we have history books from Warwick, Oberon, Rock Township, Minnewaukan, Harlow, Esmond, Maddock, Knox, Leeds, Sheyenne and Devils Lake. We also have church history books from Viking and North Viking, Klara and Immanuel in the Maddock area, St. James at Minnewaukan, St. Vincent de Paul at Leeds and Trinity Lutheran at Esmond. We also have histories of schools at Churchs Ferry, Harlow, McClellan Township, Esmond, Leeds and Minnewaukan.

The week doesn’t go by that we don’t refer to at least one of these history books.


Whenever I go to towns outside this area people ask me what Devils Lake is going to do this year. I simply don’t know and neither does anyone else. It all depends on how much run-off we have and how much rain we get in the Devils Lake Basin.

Now that Stump Lake and Devils Lake are equalized, excess water in Devils Lake can no longer flow into Stump Lake. In years past Devils Lake has not risen much because water has been flowing into Stump Lake. That relief valve is gone. Both lakes will now rise in unison if the wet cycle continues.

Leon Osborne, prominent weather forecaster at UND, has stated he expects the wet cycle will continue until 2015. But he really doesn’t know either. That’s simply an educated guess.

The Devils Lake Outlet is useless. It cannot provide any flood protection. It was put in place by politicians who didn’t understand hydrology and did it primarily to show that they were doing something.

The outlet had to be built, however. If it had not been built, the pressure would have continued and the politicians would have been blamed for doing nothing.

People talk about an east end outlet. This is blather. It will never happen. The water on the east end is so full of sulfates it is considered a pollutant. By law the state of North Dakota could not allow a discharge of such polluted water into the Sheyenne River. In addition, the federal government will not allow a discharge from the east end because it threatens to violate the Boundary Waters Treaty with Canada. Forget about it. It’s a pipe dream.

If the lake ever does rise enough to threaten to flow naturally into the Sheyenne, the federal government will call in the Corps of Engineers to halt any flow. You can bet on that.

All we can do is build dikes, raise roads and get out of the way.

It would cost too much to move the city of Devils Lake, so raising dikes is the only alternative there. Everywhere else the best alternative is to get out of the way.

The last time I looked into a dike at Minnewaukan, the cost was in the neighborhood of $8 to $10 million. It would never pass a cost-benefit analysis. Besides that, the cost of pumping water from the city side of a dike into the lake would be prohibitively expensive for Minnewaukan residents. It would cost a fortune year after year. With a dike the high water table would probably fill basements with water. The sewer system would never be able to handle seepage of water into the system if the lake gets above 1450. In my opinion this is a very bad idea that will never fly.

Moving the town to the west? This is possible, but it would require a new water and sewer system, new streets and a new school and courthouse because those buildings can’t be moved. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live in a town that would have to be taxed to this extent. It’s another pipe dream.

If the lake continues its rise, the best alternative is a buyout and let the people go where they want. There is no buyout program in place so one would have to be instituted. I don’t know if this will happen or not, but I think those who have flood insurance are going to be in better shape than those who never had flood insurance or let their flood insurance lapse. Flood insurance does not cover sewer systems, but in this case, with an entire town in jeopardy, an exception might be made.

FEMA should start putting together a buyout program now in case Minnewaukan’s sewer system fails. I don’t look for that to happen under the Bush Administration.

Can FEMA stand by and let a town of 300 flounder in its own sewage?

You bet it can. Look what it did in New Orleans. Those without flood insurance might be on their own.


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