Lake Officials Question Erosion Study

PATRICK ALEXANDER
The News Guard

An erosion study that could play into a future decision on the water level in Devils Lake has received a rough reception from lake officials, who said the work failed to fulfill many of its objectives.

The District commissioned the study to inform its decision about whether to change the level of the D River dam, which helps keep the lake higher during the summer months.

The study, conducted by Tetra Tech, Inc., concluded that the level of the lake had little effect on shoreline erosion.

In a presentation at the Dec. 1 meeting of the Devils Lake Water Improvement District, study co-author Dr. Toni Pennington laid the blame instead on the erodible nature of soils and the slope of shore.

However, Lake Manager Paul Robertson said the study was “incomplete,” having failed to address several of the issues specified by the District, including the effects of having lakeshore soils saturated year-round and the potential benefits of increased shoreline vegetation.

In an extensive critique, Robertson said the study also failed to take account of the side effects of installing riprap protection on shoreline parcels as well as increasing state regulation of such measures.

District board member Randy Weldon also took issue with the study, saying it had underestimated the height of the wakes produced by speedboats on the lake.

Several audience members felt officials went too far in their criticism.

Mark Christie, who owns a home on N.W. Loop Drive, said Robertson was “trying to rewrite the report,” to give the impression that high waters cause erosion.

“You didn’t see what you wanted to see,” he said, adding, “You could have saved $30,000 and written it yourself.”

Larry Brown, who owns a home in Indian Shores, and Mitchell Moore, who owns a Sand Point home, agreed, saying it appeared officials were trying to change the content of the study.

Meanwhile, Mark Highland, who owns a home on N.E. Lake Drive, said the study shows that responsibility for tackling erosion rests primarily with individual property owners.

“I’m not sure why we are considering reducing the lake level to chase an imaginary thought that we might be reducing erosion,” he said.

Board Chair David Skirvin said Pennington should work to “address the gaps” Robertson highlighted and report back to the board at its Feb. 2 meeting.

Pennington said the company should be able to pull additional data from its field reports to address some of the issues Robertson raised.

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Filed under DLWID, Lake Level

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