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Published September 24, 2013, 09:03 PM

Nelson County stays in basin district

The Nelson County Commission voted unanimously to restore the $8,000 annual membership fee late last week, just two weeks after deciding to drop the line item from its 2014 budget.

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald

Nelson County nearly dropped its membership in the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource District — until a group of residents fought to preserve it.

The Nelson County Commission voted unanimously to restore the $8,000 annual membership fee late last week, just two weeks after deciding to drop the line item from its 2014 budget.

“With the massive amount of flooding that’s going on in the Devils Lake Basin, including Nelson County, it’s vital that we continue to be part of that joint board,” Ben Varnson, Nelson County Water Resource District chairman, said Tuesday.

The Devils Lake Basin covers about 3,800 square miles in nine counties, including the northwestern third — about 995 square miles — of Nelson County.

Stump Lake, south of Lakota, N.D., in Nelson County, is part of the basin.

Devils Lake, which has been in a nearly continuous flood since 1993, began trickling into Stump Lake in 1999. The two lakes now are virtually the same elevation, at 1,452.6 feet above sea level. The lakes reached a record elevation of 1,454.3 feet in 2011.

The Nelson County Board initially eliminated the expenditure during its budget discussions on Sept. 6, according to County Auditor W.J. “Jack” Davidson.

However, commissioners decided to put it back on the table after receiving complaints about the proposed omission, he said.

Eight of the nine counties in the basin are part of the joint board. Benson County dropped out several years ago.

The commission then unanimously voted to include the joint board’s membership in the 2014 budget. Commission Chairman Odell Flaagan was not immediately available for comment.

The eastern North Dakota watershed is managed by three joint water boards: Red River Joint Water Resource District, which includes boards in counties that border the Red River; the Upper Sheyenne River Basin Joint Water Resource District; and the Devils Lake Joint Water Resource District. The Sheyenne and Devils Lake districts each include about 2.5 million acres of land.

“We’re all in this together,” Varnson said. “We’re thankful we can move forward with teamwork, and with a unified voice.”

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