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Published March 26, 2012, 05:34 PM

Study: Devils Lake Flooding Cost $180M in Ag Losses

DEVILS LAKE, ND (WDAZ-TV) - Flooding on Devils Lake will cost the region $180 million in agricultural losses alone, according to a new study. But there might be some hope.

By: Adam Ladwig, WDAZ

DEVILS LAKE, ND (WDAZ-TV) - Flooding on Devils Lake will cost the region $180 million in agricultural losses alone, according to a new study. But there might be some hope.

It's a lot of lost money, but one of the authors of the study says he thought it would have been worse.

Water has been rising on Devils Lake for 20 years, but NDSU Extension agent Bill Hodous says it wasn't until recently people were able to research the economic impact of the flood.

"When we first did it here two years ago, they were really surprised by the impact that our lost land production really created for our communities," Hodous said.

Since 1992, the lake has swallowed 151,000 acres of cropland. The flooding will result in a loss of $47 million in income and $39 million of retail trade activity.

"Not only do we have the sector from the farming communities realizing an impact from the rising water tables, but also in the urban sectors," Hodous said.

But, farmers who lose their land aren't at a total loss. Paul Thompson with the Natural Resource Conservation Service says 60 farmers in 2010 used the wetland reserve program to receive compensation for 15,000 acres of submerged farmland. That number shot up last year.

The $180 million impact was less than Hodous would have predicted before the research. He says a dry summer could drive lake levels lower.

"It's going to be an interesting year to see what happens and of course, depending on the weather we get, we could lose some significant water this summer," Hodous said.

Congress is expected to renew the Water Bank program soon, which would let farmers rent wetland to the government for conservation purposes.

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