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Devils Lake Takes Another Bite

Devils Lake Takes Another Bite

"I've lost half my farm in the last 4-5 days," says John Elsperger.

John Elsperger, who farms north of Church's Ferry, N.D., has lost half of his farm in the past 4-5 days to rising water from Devils Lake. His land has either been inundated or access to it has been cut off. Devils Lake is expected to rise another 2-3 feet this spring, claiming another 30,000 to 50,000 acres.

"We can get by with prevented planting this year," says Elsperger, "but I don't know what we will do if a solution isn't found."

Elsperger is near retirement and has a son farming with him.

"It's my son who I worry about," he says.

Elsperger is working on a solution. He's vice-president of the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource Board, which trying to secure funding for an outlet and other remedies.

Though Elsperger has lost half of his farm, he says he is actually one of the lucky ones.

Many families have lost their entire farms.

With no natural outlet until is reaches 1458 feet above sea level, Devils Lake has expanded to 2 to 3 times its size and now covers approximately 163,450 acres as compared with 1993 when the water started to rise. It was at an elevation of 1422.9 feet above sea level in 1993 and expected to rise to about 1455 feet in 2011.

"The total impact on business activity in the region from direct and indirect losses this year is estimated at more than $194 million," says Dwight Aakre, North Dakota State University Extension Service farm management specialist. "The major losses are $57.6 million to the crop sector, $50.9 million to households (personal income) and $42.9 million to the retail trade sector."

The remainder of the loss, according to a recent NDSU study, is distributed among several other sectors of the economy.

"The loss of business activity ultimately is reflected in lost jobs in the region," says Bill Hodous, NDSU Extension Service Ramsey County agent. "Employment losses are estimated at 1,150 jobs for the region."

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