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Published May 24, 2012, 06:31 PM

Corps Finishes $9M Tolna Coulee Control Structure

DEVILS LAKE, ND (WDAZ-TV) - The Corps of Engineers has finished work on a control structure on the Tolna Coulee. The $9 million project is designed to keep flood waters from damaging communities downstream.

By: Adam Ladwig, WDAZ

DEVILS LAKE, ND (WDAZ-TV) - The Corps of Engineers has finished work on a control structure on the Tolna Coulee. The $9 million project is designed to keep flood waters from damaging communities downstream.

The control structure isn't the only new development in the flood fight and local officials hope those developments keep them from ever having to use the control structure.

Devils Lake would have to rise another four feet before the Tolna Coulee structure would come into play.

"It's designed to only be operational if the lake reaches a 1458 elevation," Jeff Frith, Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource Board Manager, said.

That's the natural overflow point for Stump Lake. Without the control structure, the results would be devastating.

"As much as 14,500 cubic feet per second of water could flow down from the Tolna Coulee into the Sheyenne River, which would be catastrophic for anybody along the Sheyenne River," Frith said.

But other new measures are intended to keep the structure from being needed, including increased capacity on the west-end outlet near Minnewaukan.

"The third pump at the west-end is going to be started this afternoon, the one that's been in California, and so we're gonna be pumping 175 CFS there," Ramsey County Commissioner Joe Belford said.

A fourth pump should be added next month. Couple that with the soon-to-be-completed east-end outlet and a dry summer, and you can put a serious dent in the lake.

"We can see close to that two foot range coming off the lake this year," Frith said.

Even if that happens, the lake is still around 20 feet higher than its ideal elevation. But in a two-decade long fight against flood waters, any progress is cause for celebration.

"I think it would make the community feel a little bit better, even though it's not where they want to to be. It's a start," Belford said.

Even though the coluee structure won't be used this year, a couple of wet years would probably cause the lake to overflow into the coulee.

Local officials met with weather experts this week who told them this year's dry weather isn't likely to continue and that it's just a break in a wet cycle.

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