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High water, rough highways may impact lake season

Posted 6/08/11 (Wed)

High water, rough highways may impact lake season

By Olivia Sundeen   
Farmer Staff Writer

 Here comes the sun, hopefully. It is safe to say that between the May blizzards and the constant rain, sunshine is more than welcome in the McKenzie County area.
As the weather begins to heat up and summer officially arrives people will start to pack up for the lake in hopes of a relaxing weekend. They may be in for a big surprise.
The water at the lake and the roads to the lake may present problems, and ultimately, disrupt the lake-goers’ season.
As of now part of Highway 22 is closed and part of Highway 1806 is severely damaged due to the heavy traffic. These are not the only roads in McKenzie County suffering the side effects, but these two highways lead to Tobacco Gardens Resort and Marina and McKenzie Bay, two of the most popular recreation destinations in McKenzie County. The road damage and blockages will cause people to re-route, but no matter which direction is taken the roads are so worn down drivers must always be cautious.
In light of this problem there is not much anyone can do.
“The people responsible for maintaining these roads are doing the best they can,” stated Brent Schwan, District Game Warden with the North Dakota Game and Fish Dept. “But their manpower and resources are limited, so I’m sure we’ll see these conditions throughout the entire summer.”
Schwan believes that if people are able to just slow down and use caution many accidents can be prevented. Those who are towing campers, boats or trailers need to remember that maneuvering the roads will be  more difficult.
 Peggy Hellandsaas, owner of Tobacco Gardens Resort, has already started to suffer losses from the road conditions.
“We can’t bear with this. The poor road conditions have affected my business with a decrease of 30 percent. That is significant. We need to continually let our local and state government and the North Dakota Department of Transportation be aware of the condition of the roads,” stated Hellandsaas. “We can’t wait three to four years to have N.D. Highway 1806 fixed. At the very least the state needs to come out and fill the holes and mark them. Vehicles swerving from lane to lane to miss the holes are unsafe. Will it take a death to have the NDDOT wake up and take notice? Highway 1806 isn’t a farm-to-market road anymore.”
Hellandsaas has reported that many campers have had to call and cancel their reservation as they were turning around because the road is so bad.
“Who can afford to bring a camper and boat out here and have them damaged because they have to travel over these roads? No one,” stated Hellandsaas. “Some of the holes are 50 to 500 feet wide and unmarked. Most cars cannot come out to the lake due to this.”
Schwan feels that this is a situation everyone is going to have to make the best of for the time-being. He has one friendly reminder.
“As long as precautions are taken the roads are just a minor obstacle to relaxation at the lake,” stated Schwan. “I would just like to remind people to enjoy the lake, but make sure you don’t drink and drive. A mixture of that and the bad roads is an accident waiting to happen. Be smart!”
The other issue that may pose a problem this lake season is the rise in water elevation.
The Corp of Engineers is reporting that by the end of last week the lake water was around 1,853 feet, which is within a foot of the spillway. The river at Williston is getting near its highest level since 1912. 
“The water is so gorgeous when it is up,” stated Rhonda Logen, owner of McKenzie Bay Marina. “I would rather see it like this than low. Besides shoreline erosion, everyone is finally able to enjoy how full the lake is.”
For Hellandsaas an ideal water level would be between 1,842 - 1,845. Currently, the water is exceeding that by 10 feet. The rise of the water is causing flooding in the low areas and erosion of the beaches. It appears to only be getting worse.
“We have been without water for so long that we welcome the rise,” stated Hellandsaas. “We just didn’t expect it to rise this much.”
The debate is being tossed back and forth over the pros and cons of the rise in water. One thing everyone can agree on is that precaution needs to be taken in order for one to drive to the lake.
“At this time the lake-goers are glad to see the water,” stated Hellandsaas.
So as the sun comes out, grab your family and head out to the lake and enjoy the water. Just remember it may be a rocky ride.