- Associated Press - Friday, June 29, 2018

COLEHARBOR, N.D. (AP) - The Army Corps of Engineers has a preferred plan to protect the 2-mile (3-kilometer) embankment in the central part of North Dakota that separates Lake Sakakawea and Lake Audubon.

The corps is proposing to draw down Lake Audubon’s water levels in drought years to prevent pressure that could lead to a failure of the embankment, which supports U.S. Highway 83.

The plan comes after a discovery several years ago that relief wells aren’t working properly. The wells were installed in the embankment to offset pressure when the two lakes are at different levels.

Built up pressure on one side of the embankment that’s not offset on the other could lead to embankment failure, said Matt Nelson, an engineer from the corps’ water control section, during a public input meeting Wednesday.

Affected agencies by the draw down would be notified 30 days before the levels are brought down, Nelson said.

But Garrison Diversion Conservancy District General Manager Duane DeKrey said he thinks the federal agency is shirking responsibility for fixing the root of the problem, and that the corps plan will hurt irrigation. He said the district and others in the state are seeking congressional help.

DeKrey said he also worries about how the draw down could affect a proposed Red River Valley Water Supply Project that would send water further east from the canal in drought years to help farmers irrigate. DeKrey said the project could break ground next spring.

The federal agency is taking public comment on its proposal.

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