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Published November 04, 2013, 06:23 PM

Devils Lake outlets prepare for close with higher water levels

We are nearing the end of the pumping season for the two Devils Lake outlets, but lake levels are still about a foot and a half higher than this time last year.

By: Adam Ladwig, WDAZ

We are nearing the end of the pumping season for the two Devils Lake outlets, but lake levels are still about a foot and a half higher than this time last year.

One of the outlets is already shut off for the winter with the second pump expected to be shut down in the next couple weeks. The 2013 year wasn't the best year in terms of lowering lake levels on Devils Lake, but local water experts say it could have been a lot worse.

Devils Lake is about two feet below record levels right now.

"We peaked out at 1453.4, and now we're sitting at 1452.3," said Joe Belford with the Red River Basin Commission."

That's after a foot-and a half drop this summer thanks to the two Devils Lake outlets and cooperative weather.

"It equates to about ten, a little more than ten inches off the lake, so we've gone down between the outlets operating and the evaporation, about a foot and a half from our high this spring," said Jeff Frith with the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Board.

But the pumping season is about over. The west end outlet shut down two weeks ago. The east end pumps will go as long as possible.

Jeff: "A lot of it is dependent on the weather this time of year."

Even with the success of the outlets, lake levels are still a foot and a half higher than this time last year.

Even though lake levels are up overall this year, water experts say it could have been a lot worse, considering we had the third largest inflow on record into the lake this spring.

Jeff: "So we were very concerned last spring about the volume of water in the snowpack and the potential for a very large increase in the lake."

A slow melt helped keep lake levels manageable because much of the water absorbed into the ground. It's been a wet fall in the lake region -- we might not be so lucky this winter.

Joe: "The more saturated the soils are, the less holding capacity they'll have next spring, and so that's always a concern that you have to take into account."

Local water experts say it's too soon to guess how much the lake might rise next spring. It's all dependent on how much snow we get this winter and how quickly it melts in the spring.

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