Thursday, June 14, 2007

Battle over Devil's Lake Diversion continues

There is concern that the water from Devil's Lake could cause problems for Manitoba fisheries since the water ultimately goes into the Red River and runs through Manitoba into Lake Winnipeg. I have no idea why North Dakota does not install a sand filter as suggested by Doer.

Manitoba politicans vow to continue Devils Lake battle
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 13, 2007 | 5:25 PM CT
CBC News
Federal and provincial politicians are vowing to take action in the cross-border water battle over North Dakota's Devils Lake outlet, which was put into operation Monday.

Manitoba Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick was in Ottawa yesterday, where she raised the issue with Manitoba's senior federal minister, Environment Minister Vic Toews.

Manitoba opposes the use of the outlet, which diverts water from Devils Lake into the Sheyenne River, a tributary of the Red River, which flows north through Manitoba to Lake Winnipeg.

Toews said Wednesday he would speak with U.S. federal officials about concerns over the North Dakota health department's decision last summer to increase the maximum sulphate level allowed in the water.

"There is some concern that the provincial Manitoba government expressed in respect to the fact that the American federal government delegated the responsibility to the state and that the state lowered the standards in terms of environmental safety of the water," Toews said.

"That was a concern that was expressed to us by Minister Melnick, and that's something that we will raise again with the Americans."

At the Manitoba legislature Wednesday afternoon, Premier Gary Doer said he prefers a diplomatic solution to the issue, such as a sand filter the province has proposed.

"I gave them a good solution and unfortunately, we didn't get it solved," he said. "Turn off the outlet, turn off the tap, and we'll come back to the table."

Water could damage fisheries: Manitoba
Manitoba officials say the water from Devils Lake contains organisms and sulphates that could damage Manitoba's waterways and fisheries.

The Manitoba government is continuing a legal appeal of the North Dakota health department's permit change, which increased the maximum sulphate level in the water to 450 milligrams per litre, up from from 300 milligrams per litre, and extended the time the diversion can be open each year.

Manitoba and several environmental groups appealed the decision, but lost in a U.S. district court in April.

They're now taking the case to North Dakota Supreme Court.

A spokesperson for North Dakota Governor John Hoeven maintains the outlet is a reasonable means of diverting some water to protect life and limb.

North Dakota constructed the outlet to stem the growth of Devils Lake, which has more than tripled in size since the early 1990s, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, swallowing thousands of hectares of farmland and forcing hundreds of households to move.

The last time the outlet was used was in its inaugural year in 2005, when it was in operation for 10 days.

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