The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit today for a plan to drain high water flooding farms around Devils Lake and pump it into another county, which threatened a court fight.
Devils Lake, in north-central North Dakota, has no natural outlet and rises and falls according to rainfall and runoff.
Its unchecked rise in the past three years has inundated thousands of acres of adjacent farmland, used mostly to grow wheat, and caused an estimated $30 million in damage.
It has risen about 12 feet in the past two years, spreading from 44,000 acres to around 72,000 this summer, its biggest this century.
Under the estimated $7 million emergency state plan backed by Gov. Ed Schafer, dikes and a pumping station would be built to move water about 10 miles from Devils Lake in Ramsey County southeast to West and East Stump Lakes in Nelson County.
The levels of both lakes could rise as much as 10 feet and Nelson County residents say that will flood their land.
“I guess when your garbage can is full, you dump it over the fence,” Nelson County Commissioner Charles Gehrke said today.
The Nelson County Commission may seek a federal court order to stop the pumping, said Duane Breitling, a lawyer for the commission.
However, Schafer said Wednesday the state will go ahead with plans to buy pumps and begin construction.
There was no indication when pumping might start.
Currently, damage has been confined to farmland and roads. If the lake rose significantly, homes in the town of Devils Lake could be threatened.