Landlocked tides
July 12, 2005 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Devils Lake is the largest body of water in North Dakota, and it's growing. Landlocked and continuously fed by surrounding rivers and lakes, its size corresponds to the amount of rainfall and can vary dramatically. In fact, recent changes aren't even on the map yet. With more rainfall on the horizon, the government of North Dakota is building an artificial outlet for the lake, channeling the water northwards. But Manitoba doesn't want the water, fearing that an invasion of Devils Lake species will seriously upset the Red River's ecological balance and harm the Manitoban fishing industry. Nonetheless, the ND government seems determined to prevent the loss of any more trees and farmland and roadways and villages.
posted by DrJohnEvans (26 comments total)
Wow cool. Another great use of maps. How are the mosquitoes there? My experience with these sprawling shallow lakes is one of bugs overtakeing surrounding communities.
posted by stbalbach at 12:10 PM on July 12, 2005

This reminds me of a great book I just read, Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson, where a similar lake rules the action and the town.
posted by OmieWise at 12:14 PM on July 12, 2005

The satilite view is pretty sweet, with part winter (ice) and part summer
posted by delmoi at 12:30 PM on July 12, 2005

North Dakota needs to do something and it seems as if Canda hasn't been very cooperative.
posted by chicken nuglet at 12:41 PM on July 12, 2005

I say we annex Canada.
posted by keswick at 1:01 PM on July 12, 2005

Yeah, we'll get right on that once you:

1) Open the border to Canadian Beef
2) Drop the illegal tariff on softwood lumber
3) Drop the ban on PEI Potatoes (that one may be done already)
4) Accept that the Canada Wheat Board has been deemed acceptable under WTO terms
5) etc.. ad nauseum
posted by smcniven at 1:04 PM on July 12, 2005

My dad grew up in Minnewaukan, which you can see on the map linked to Devils Lake on the left hand side. I just typed in the town name in google maps and scrolled off to the right, strange, seeing the town underwater like that.. ..
posted by mk1gti at 1:46 PM on July 12, 2005

there's a devils lake in wisconsin too, which is also landlocked and rain fed.
posted by afu at 1:52 PM on July 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

I remember they had the best root beer floats there, real small town atmosphere. If you look close you'll see that for the most part there were just dirt roads there. I'll really miss the place.
posted by mk1gti at 2:17 PM on July 12, 2005

Speaking as a Manitoban, the idea that we are not being cooperative is laughable as well as offensive.

How about going to the IJC, respecting the Boundary Waters Treaty, or trying any other of the numerous suggestions we have put forth instead of just building the diversion without respect to the environment or your neighbours?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:30 PM on July 12, 2005

Yeah, I understand what you're saying. I'm going to miss my father's small town, but we're talking about another country's rights here too.
posted by mk1gti at 2:47 PM on July 12, 2005


We've had tons of flooding up here this year, and in 1997 both countries suffered at the hands of the Red River. In '97 I spent a ton of time sandbagging around the homes of friends, coworkers, and people I had never even met, so I think I can understand where you are coming from.

I know that something needs to be done about Devil's Lake, but the unilateral nature of the actions being taken right now have really pissed off a lot of people here.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 3:13 PM on July 12, 2005

Yeah, my father travels there every couple of years to watch his mother's and father's town sink into the lake, not much one can do about it (or should do about it considering the damage to other areas). Just a real shame.
Looking at the aerial view of Minniewaukan was the first I've really seen of the devestation there, according to my father the town disappears under the water, then re-emerges when the flooding eases off. It's essentially uninhabited now, which is why the dirt roads look the way they do, silt build up and all. . .
I hope it all gets sorted out with a solution that will benefit everyone and take nothing away from anyone. Of course we all know how likely that's going to be. . . .
posted by mk1gti at 3:44 PM on July 12, 2005

What kind of idiots build a community on a seasonally dry lake bed?

I say we annex the USA. Their educational system could use some Canadianizing.
posted by Pseudonumb at 7:49 PM on July 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

Very true.

Sorry if I seemed a bit harsh, I know that the lake is literally eating up land these days. I just happen to live on the river at the other end of the proposed diversion, and a guess a certain NIMBY reflex kicks in.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:50 PM on July 12, 2005

Should have been on preview:

'Very true' to mk1gti's last comment. Not so much the 'idiots' or 'annexing the USA' comments from Pseudonumb's post.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:51 PM on July 12, 2005

'Very true' to mk1gti's last comment. Not so much the 'idiots' or 'annexing the USA' comments from Pseudonumb's post.

Sorry, but it always irks me when someone inevitably throws out an "I say we annex Canada"-type comment in every thread that concerns my country - even if it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek.
Issues concerning sovereignty aren't a joke on this side of the border IMO, and in this case - where it is more than just a difference in politics or opinion - it seems especially galling.
posted by Pseudonumb at 8:13 PM on July 12, 2005

As far as 'what kind of idiots build a town on a seasonally dry lake bad', Minnewaukan was settled in the late 1800's or so, and since that time until recently has been as dry as a bone.
So much for that line of thought. . .
As far as invading and taking over the U.S.
Please! Invade Us! I promise I won't say or do a thing. I think many 'muricans would rather swear their allegiance to Canada these days than. . . that other place.
The only thing that could happen would be an improvement...
posted by mk1gti at 8:34 PM on July 12, 2005

I'm being serious. We want your land and your cute women who say "aboot." We'll let you keep Quebec.
posted by keswick at 9:52 PM on July 12, 2005

How bout the canadians come down and take over the U.S.? The current residents don't seem to be doing much with it. . .
posted by mk1gti at 10:30 PM on July 12, 2005

I've been to Devils Lake, ND. It isn't a bad place to camp.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:50 PM on July 12, 2005

Water Boundaries and other grievances?

Let's stick to the facts. People are in danger of getting their land appropriated by water. Their livelihoods and homes are in danger. Are you going to help folks?

Such as taking on the extra slack of water.

Regarding invading species. Well, my relatives came over here from Europe. Was that a bad thing?

Yes, it will change the eco system of Canada's receiving lakes and tributaries, however, mankind changes the ecosystem even more so than a few thousand different species would, as a whole. The big picture.


Well, I can't speak of the differences in the Canadian to be affected tributaries nor of Devil's Lake. Give us the down low then.

Let's help these people.

All you contributing to say Live8, wouldn't you reconsider?
posted by alicesshoe at 3:50 PM on July 13, 2005


As I stated before, the river they want to empty Devil's Lake into divides my city in half, and we are in the middle of our own flooding problems right now. I think that gives us a right to be heard and the impact on us considered as well.

The environmental impact and international treaties are also still important concerns, but of course self-serving unilateral action by the US isn't exactly a new thing, is it?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:48 PM on July 13, 2005

alicesshoe writes "Their livelihoods and homes are in danger."

If invading bass outcompete the pike[1] in lake Winnipeg the Manitoba fishermen will have their livelihoods destroyed. And there won't be any solution like passing the water back to the Americans.

But ignoring what a disaster this could be for your northern neighbours try thinking of the big picture. Why would any country enter into any kind of treaty with the US? The federal goverment seems unable to keep their states in check plus the Feds themselves have been backing out of or just plain ignoring agreements they've made. Unilateral action by the US in this matter is typical of the American Superpower mentality. Maybe we need to start acting unilaterially on the Columbia river? That might get Washington state pulling for Canada in the US and expand this into the national issue it is.

[1] And I'll be pissed, Mmmmmm Pike.
posted by Mitheral at 6:43 AM on July 14, 2005

from the article... If they rise another three metres or so, they will begin naturally to drain into the Sheyenne River.

This appears to me that the outflow to the Sheyenne River is a natural path, although a rare one, and that the resistance to the ditch has far more to do with political power than environmental concerns.
posted by peterbaer at 11:26 PM on July 14, 2005

I received this email from a lurker:
I was born and raised in Devil's Lake, and didn't leave until I went to college in 1994. Here's some random stuff about the area. Feel free to post this if you're inclined; I don't have a metafilter account but am a daily visitor to the site. I'll get an account when paypal is governed under FIPS, or when they allow you to send cash in your balance to someone other than eBay. :)

Yeah, the lake is a mess. There's so much algae in the lake that the water is very, very green. It might be from fertilizer runoff, I don't know. My mom's house is at 1455 or 1460 ft elevation. I don't remember which, but it's the elevation at which the lake flows naturally into the Cheyenne river and from there, into Canada. I used to literally drive through the lake to visit my dad by Starkweather along highway 20 -- the lake was about 6" to 1' above the road. There was a pickup truck that you'd follow so you wouldn't drive off the road. One of my childhood buddies lost his car trying to drive at night without the navigational aid of the truck.

The situation with our northern neighbors is a bummer. I'm not aware of any locals that harbor any ill will towards Canada. Young adults, ages 18-20, would make pilgrimages to drink legally up there.

As for the politics, it's been that way since the lake started flooding and the Army corp. of engineers started floating ideas in the 90s. The flooding is more or less a train wreck, just like the flooding of Grand Forks in '97. The train wreck of D.L. is just in slow motion and with larger dikes.

The fishing is ridiculously great. You're likely to catch walleye, northern pike, and perch. There's some white bass and a wee bit of rock bass as well.

Devil's Lake (called Spirit Lake by the native Lakota tribes; D.L. was a mistranslation) is a remnant of Lake Agassiz, which if memory serves, is the same glacial lake that formed Lake Winnipeg.

Our high school mascot used to be the Satans. I think it's the Firebirds now; they changed it in the last few years. It was a big hullabaloo. There's probably still some hullabaloo; my 7th grade social studies teacher only referred to the town as Angel Lake.

I don't know where mk1gti got the root beer floats; maybe at Pugsley's if it was recent. There was a Woolworth's there until the late 80s or so. There was also a Bridgeman's ice cream place, though that has also either closed or moved.

I've had dozens of high school friends lose their homes due to the lake flooding. From what I hear, most of the kids that I went to high school with have left the area for Fargo, Grand Forks, or Minneapolis / St. Paul.

The mosquitos aren't too bad, though if you search around long enough (or go to Creative Impressions), you'll probably find a shirt that proudly proclaims the mosquito as the state bird.

They use a cordoned-off section of the lake to treat wastewater. It's affectionately referred to as the Lemna project. I didn't know this until searching for a picture, but apparently the Greens love it. There's a picture of the project here:
My apologies for the delay. I obviously need to check my gmail account more frequently.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 8:58 AM on July 20, 2005

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