Published April 26, 2011, 12:10 AM

Wildlife area part of Devils Lake plan

The Army Corps of Engineers has released a draft report about what to do with the swollen Devils Lake that includes, among other things, a proposal to create a 48,000-acre Pelican Bay National Recreation and Wildlife area from flooded land in the Pelican Lake and Lake Alice area.

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald

The Army Corps of Engineers has released a draft report about what to do with the swollen Devils Lake that includes, among other things, a proposal to create a 48,000-acre Pelican Bay National Recreation and Wildlife area from flooded land in the Pelican Lake and Lake Alice area.

The Devils Lake Collaborative Working Group will discuss the draft plan when it meets, from 1 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, at the Ramsey County Courthouse in Devils Lake.

The plan, including any changes, will be presented May 12 to the Devils Lake Executive Committee in Bismarck.

The draft plan includes key points that already are part of state and federal preliminary plans, such as building a 5.5-mile outlet from East Devils Lake to the Tolna Coulee, and building a control structure on the Tolna Coulee, to regulate flows. The outlet would have a capacity of 350 cubic feet of water per second.

Once those projects are completed, by the spring of 2012, the state plans to expand the existing west-end outlet from 250 cfs to 350 cfs.

One potential project would be to convert flooded farmland in the Pelican Lake/Lake Alice area into a 48,000-acre Pelican Bay National Recreation and Wildlife Area, operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and North Dakota Department of Game and Fish.

The preliminary proposal, as identified in the draft plan, would consist of land that is flooded or would flood if Devils Lake rises to an elevation of about 1,458 feet above sea level, the point at which it will overflow naturally from Stump Lake to the Tolna Coulee and the Sheyenne River.

While the amounts likely would be negotiated, the proposal calls for providing compensation to landowners of perhaps $400 per acre for pasture land and $800 for crop land.

Devils Lake has risen by about 30 feet and quadrupled in size since 1993. The federal government has spent nearly $1 billion on the 18-year flood fight.

On Monday, the lake was at an elevation of 1.453.27 feet, more than a foot higher than the 2010 record. The National Weather Service currently forecasts a 50-percent chance the lake will rise to 1,454.8 feet this year.

The Devils Lake Collaborative Working Group includes representatives from several state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Dakota State Water Commission, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency and National Resource Conservation Service.

The group is studying 21 potential action points, including:

- Flooded land compensation and increased upper basin storage.

- Increasing the capacity of the Sheyenne River channel.

- Construction of a biota filter for the Devils Lake outlets.

- Construction of a control structure on Jerusalem Channel, between East Devils Lake and Stump Lake.

- Construction of a diversion channel from the Edmore Coulee to tributaries of the Red River, including the Forest and Pembina rivers, for example.

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send email to kbonham@gfherald.com.

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