- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

DOUGLAS, N.D. (AP) - Residents who are facing a fourth straight year of flooding on Rice Lake in northwestern North Dakota say a drainage pipeline is a bad idea.

Ron Kramer, spokesman for Friends of the Douglas Aquifer, told residents at a Sunday meeting in Douglas that the Rice Lake Recreation Service District has ignored less expensive options in favor of a solution that harms its neighbors and taxes residents beyond their abilities to pay.

The $6 million pipeline would transfer excess water from Rice Lake into Douglas Creek. Landowners are worried that draining water into Douglas Creek could led to downstream flooding of land that is being pastured or hayed.

Other potential downstream affects include flooding of the Douglas sewage lagoon and home basements, Kramer said.

“By pumping Rice Lake, you are also pumping the Douglas Aquifer,” Kramer said. “You are depleting a vital aquifer in the region. That’s the sole source of water for some homes, farms and ranches. You are taking away from these folks who have lived out there their whole lives and cared for this land their whole lives.

“You are telling them that these cabin owners at Rice Lake are a higher priority than you and your livestock, which is your livelihood,” he said.

The recreation district is suing Kramer and other residents in an eminent domain proceeding to obtain easements to construct the pipeline. District officials say they can’t comment because of the pending lawsuit,

The Minot Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/1hFFltc ) that the state Water Commission has agreed to make $2.8 million available for the proposed pipeline project but that the district has yet to obtain the necessary drainage permits.

Kramer said the tax on a small cabin at Rice Lake is $4,000 with special assessments. The pipeline project is estimated to add another $1,200 a year. Kramer believes landowners will be walking away from their properties because of taxes.

“Now we’ve got a few people who have been flooded out by the water and we are getting more people who are getting flooded out by their tax bill. I don’t think in good conscience we can do something like that, especially when we have other options,” he said.

Kramer thinks Rice Lake can resolve its issues by spending an estimated $2.5 million on dikes, buyouts of already flooded properties and flood-proofing its sewer system. He also suggested a construction moratorium on property below the level of Rice Lake’s natural outlet.

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Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com

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