9/30/2009 – Editorials


By Richard Peterson

Plans are being formulated for a boat ramp at the junction of Old US 281 and ND 19 north of Minnewaukan. Old US 281 is now closed because the water is only about a foot below the surface of the highway and the asphalt is littered with flotsam and jetsam that’s been thrown there by the waves. Vehicle passage is next to impossible.

The boat ramp near the water tower in Minnewaukan has been closed.

The parking area is under water and the approach to the ramp is also under water. The boat ramp near the Minnewaukan dumpground half a mile south of town is functioning well but as the lake rises, the roads to this ramp are vulnerable.

Fishermen are clamoring for another boat ramp on the west end so they can access Pelican Bay without plowing through leagues of water to get there. The ND Game & Fish Dept. has heard their pleas and has agreed to provide funding for the proposed boat ramp at the junction of Old US 281 and ND 19 north of Minnewaukan. Permission has to be obtained from the Federal Highway Administration which turned the old highway over to the county with the stipulation that the riprap would not be disturbed. I have no doubt that the Federal Highway Administration will have to waive its stipulation concerning the riprap.

You see, the Devils Lake Outlet on Round Lake, a bay of Devils Lake, is performing well. It is operating at 100 cubic feet per second

(cfs) and is removing a significant amount of water from the lake. By significant, I mean an inch or so in a year. Plans are to triple the size of the outlet.

But there’s a fly in the ointment. At 100 cfs, the outlet will eventually suck Round Lake dry because the culverts under Old US 281 cannot allow enough water to flow from Devils Lake into Round Lake.

At 300 cfs, the pumps will be idle most of the time while they wait for water to flow into Round Lake.

This makes no sense, so the old highway will be cut. The old railroad and fences in the way will have to be dredged out to allow the outlet to work. At 300 cfs, the Devils Lake Outlet will finally provide flood control.

If the Federal Highway Administration says no to breaching the road, it can prepare for the most concerted political barrage imaginable.

Let there be no mistake: the politicians will see to it that it will not be able to continue to insist that the road cannot be breached.

Looking at this situation, George Howard, who lives in Bismarck, but whose heart is in Minnewaukan, looked into the future and saw that a boat ramp on Round Lake is exactly what this area needs. "West end development," he calls it.

The high hills surrounding the lake would provide a safe harbor for docking in high winds, which can come up suddenly and unexpectedly. I agreed to work with George to see if this can become reality. Others who have signed on to help are Sherri Thompson, Claudette Carlson and Jason Feldner.

The county will probably be asked to be the sponsor, as it is with the proposed ramp on the old highway north of Minnewaukan. We do not visualize any financial input by the county. The maintenance of the site has not been addressed.

George has met with the ND Game & Fish Dept. which will assess the area and make a determination where the ramp would be located. It is expected the landowner would donate the land because it would make adjacent land many times more valuable than it is now. George has also talked with ND State Water Commission employees who will be in the forefront of getting the old highway breeched.

Those are the plans so far. We can use all the boat ramps we can get on the west end of Devils Lake.

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The 300 cfs outlet would provide some flood control for the people around Devils Lake. But there will be tradeoffs. I’m don’t know if the Sheyenne River can handle a flow of that magnitude day after day.

It may erode the banks of the river or it may overflow the banks in spots and flood adjoining land. This will have to be monitored closely.

The cities which get their water supply from the Sheyenne River may have to receive funds to upgrade their water treatment plants. This would have to come from the state, which is bankrolling the additional capacity of the outlet.

In addition, property owners along the outlet canal in Benson County complain that the canal leaks water into their adjoining land and the State Water Commission is ignoring their complaints. This could develop into a serious public relations issue for the State Water Commission, especially if it is going to increase the capacity of the outlet from 100 cfs to 300 cfs.

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The health care debate continues. We aren’t going to get any relief on this issue because every bill under consideration leaves the health insurance companies with their death grip on the system.

We don’t need them. They don’t provide any health care for us. All they do is siphon off billions for unearned profits and inflated executive salaries. Paying a reasonable price to medical personnel for services rendered is fine, but nobody should be profiting from the illness of others, as the health insurance companies do.

Cutting out the insurance companies would probably save enough money to extend health care to everyone.


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