DOUGLAS Some say a proposed pipeline may only shift flooding troubles from beleaguered Rice Lake residents to landowners and residents a few miles to the south. Others say they were very disappointed about how they were told of the pipeline and have more questions than answers.
The biggest answer could come later this month. A ruling is expected from District Court Judge Richard Hagar on whether or not the Rice Lake Recreation Service District has the authority to exercise eminent domain over landowners along the proposed pipeline route.
"Landowners are being sued for eminent domain. We feel property rights are being violated. We don't believe the recreation district has the power of eminent domain 11 1/2 miles away. We're concerned about the aquifer being depleted for livestock and water for homes. We met with the board and they never answered a single concern we had. It's basically their way or no way," said Ron Kramer, Douglas.
Ron Kramer, Douglas, stands at the corner of his property where a section of the proposed Rice Lake pipeline would run in the ditch. Kramer is spokesman for Friends of Douglas Aquifer, a group of landowners who have expressed opposition to the project.
Kramer is the designated spokesman for a group of landowners comprising the Friends of Douglas Aquifer. According to Kramer, the landowner group is very understanding of the difficulties being encountered due to high water at Rice Lake. His uncle's cabin is one of many flooded structures at the lake.
"I've seen first-hand what is happening," said Kramer. "My uncle's cabin was destroyed and we've enjoyed it our whole lives. We are not cold and uncaring, but have just felt all along there are better ways to address the issue. Pushing landowners into a corner doesn't solve any issues."
The Rice Lake board approved pursuit of a pipeline outlet as a permanent solution to rising water that has inundated several shoreline properties and threatens many more. The pipeline would flow south out of Rice Lake and eventually dump into Douglas Lake on the west side of Douglas. From there the water would flow naturally through Douglas Creek and into Lake Sakakawea.
Opponents to the proposed pipeline say Douglas Lake does not have an outlet that is sufficient to regulate water levels or outflow. They add that additional water pumped into Douglas Lake will place the Douglas sewer system in jeopardy and that higher water levels in Douglas Lake may lead to a re-occurrence of what happened in 2011 when saturated soil resulted in basements flooding in Douglas.
The proposed pipeline would carry five cubic feet per second of water. However, no pumping would be allowed during normal spring runoff or during the winter. That means pumping some years would be limited to summer and early fall. Kramer says his calculations reveal it would take 13 years for the proposed pipeline to move 20,000 acre feet of water, the amount of water to be pumped according to a preliminary engineering estimate.
The North Dakota State Water Commission voted in 2012 to conditionally receive cost-share of 60 percent of the proposed pipeline project, up to $2,842,200. However, a valid drain permit has not yet been obtained from the state. The project cannot go forward without final approval from the Water Commission.
The latest cause for alarm for Rice Lake property owners is that the lake rose more than two feet this past winter, an event believed to be unprecedented for the winter season. Kramer is among those who believe the rise is a direct result of previous pumping of Rice Lake water to land above the lake where it re-enters the Douglas aquifer and returns to Rice Lake.
"They wanted to buy themselves a little bit of time, but it was only supposed to be temporary," said Kramer. "We are convinced that pumping on top of the hill is causing a lot of the flooding. I have many sloughs on my land and none came up in January. We've never seen water come up in the winter, not two and one-half feet. It goes against what a person has for common sense."
Kramer's land is located between Rice Lake and Douglas. Rice Lake is located southwest of Minot at the northern end of the Douglas aquifer. Other lakes near Rice Lake and located within the aquifer include Tangedahl, Vernon, Stink and Nelson-Carlson.