Devils Lake Set To Rise Again

About 161,000 acres of cropland are expected to be lost to the lake in 2013.

Published on: May 8, 2013

During last year's drought, Dan Webster, Penn, N.D., thought he might be able to reclaim 1,000 acres he had lost to the rising waters of Devils Lake.

Through the summer and fall, Webster and his family hauled out debris, cut up driftwood and worked down cattails on land that had been flooded.

But over the winter, the weather changed and a heavy snow pack developed over the Devils Lake basin. Now the lake is set to rise again.

 "It looks like we'll lose the 1,000 acres to the lake again," Webster says,"

Estimates are that nearly 161,000 acres of cropland will be lost to the lake in 2013, according to Bill Hodous, North Dakota State University Extension Service agent in Ramsey County.

Rising water from Devils Lake spread through a farmstead. Photo by Huck Krueger
Rising water from Devils Lake spread through a farmstead. Photo by Huck Krueger

"Total direct losses are estimated at nearly $54 million due to reduced sales of crop production as a result of inundated acres," says Dwight Aakre, NDSU Extension Service farm management specialist. "The largest loss is from spring wheat, at more than 25% of the total. Other crops with major losses include soybeans, corn, edible beans, barley and canola."

The total impact on business activity in the region from direct and indirect losses this year is estimated at $198 million, according to Randal Coon, research specialist in the NDSU Agribusiness and Applied Economics Department. These losses include reduced personal income of $52 million and reduced retail trade activity of $44 million.

The loss of business activity ultimately is reflected in lost jobs. Employment losses are estimated at 267 jobs for the region.

Tax revenues will decline primarily due to a reduction in sales tax revenue. Personal and corporate income taxes will be reduced also.

The data used for the study include the five-year average acreage of each crop grown in the region, five-year average yields for each crop and estimated 2013 marketing year average price for each crop.

This analysis quantifies the extent of the lost agricultural production in the Devils Lake Basin due to the continued high water levels in Devils Lake, Stump Lake and the surrounding area. It does not include any nonagricultural costs associated with roads and other infrastructure.