Gravity Outlet Possibly Shelved

A proposal to route some Stump Lake water into a gravity-flow outlet into the Tolna coulee and onto the Sheyenne River may be shelved as a result of rising cost estimates for the structure.

Valley City Mayor Bob Werkhoven said Friday, “We’re very pleased with the (board’s) decision. We are happy that happened.”

Werkhoven said a gravity-flow outlet from Stump Lake into the coulee “would have increased sulfates into the water and we (Valley City) would have to spend more at the water plant to remove them.”

On Thursday the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource Board voted to drop its support for the outlet after North Dakota released a revised cost estimate for the project.

Resource Board Manager Jeff Frith said the board decided its membership couldn’t afford any local cost share connected with the higher cost estimate.
Werkhoven said his understanding why the board decided to drop its support was “because it was so costly.”

Frith said the board still supports the idea of using gravity to get more water off Devils Lake, and using a natural outlet into the Tolna coulee would be the best route to take.

Bruce Engelhardt of the North Dakota State Water Commission said Friday he doesn’t yet know what the decision will mean in terms of building the gravity-flow outlet.

“Right now it means we don’t have a local sponsor,” Engelhardt said.
The most recent cost estimate was $23.5 million, compared with the earlier estimate of $17 million, Engelhardt said.

He said both figures are a lot of money, but the most recent estimate is significantly higher than the original figure.

Along with the most recent increase in the cost estimate, Engelhardt said possible problems with the aquifer between Stump Lake and the Tolna coulee “could put the cost even higher.”

“The water commission doesn’t know if we can proceed or not – that decision is yet to be made,” Engelhardt said.

Said Werkhoven, “We’re happy about it. Anything we get out of Stump Lake increases our (water) treatment costs.”

Water is already being pumped out of the Devils Lake chain and into the Sheyenne River at two locations. Stump Lake, part of that chain, has the highest level of undesirable chemicals in the chain, including sulfates, which causes diarrhea.

North Dakota is working to lower water levels in Devils Lake to avoid threatening massive flooding.