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Sakakawea is expected to hit 1,840 feet by July

Posted 6/10/09 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

This spring the thought of rising water was not a good thing. But today many McKenzie County residents are thrilled to hear that Lake Sakakawea has risen considerably and is still on the rise.
It’s been eight years since Lake Sakakawea sat at its normal level of 1,837.5, but that is expected to change soon.
“The last time we saw Lake Sakakawea at its normal pool was in 2001,” states Phil Brown, United States Army Corps of Engineers lake manager. “The lake level dropped below the 1,830 mark in 2002, where it has remained until this spring.”
According to Brown, one year ago the lake level was between 1,818 and 1,820 feet, an average summer level since the lake dropped in 2002. But this winter’s moisture helped to make this summer’s levels much different. As of June 7, the lake level was 1,834.4 feet, approximately 16 feet higher than a year ago and still rising.
“With mountain snowpack melting, the lake is rising every day, and will continue to do so until around the first week of July,” adds Brown. “The forecast is for the lake to be at 1,840 feet, or 16 feet higher than it is now by early July.”
More water means more opportunities for lake users. According to Brown, all open recreation areas around Lake Sakakawea have useable boat ramps with many low water ramps under water.
“It’s been amazing,” says Peggy Hellandsaas of Tobacco Gardens. “Everybody is excited to see the water so high. We’ve had boats out and fish caught every weekend.”
The high water has generated lots of excitement for lake enthusiasts whether their passion is fishing, boating or just hanging around on the beach.
“The higher water has been a great source of optimism for lake users,” says Brent Schwan, North Dakota Game and Fish Department district game warden. “There are a lot of dangers to low water boating, so the higher water has encouraged a lot of boaters to get their boats ready and hit the water.”
According to Brown, the real affects of this high water won’t be seen for a couple of years.
“The higher water is great for our fishery because it offers great reproduction and feeding opportunities for fish,” comments Brown. “The higher water makes lake access easier for anglers, but we won’t notice bigger or more fish for a few years.”
Because of overgrown shorelines, higher water can make for harder fishing, but that isn’t keeping anglers away.
“Overall, the rising water should give anglers more opportunities to catch fish,” says Schwan. “It may be harder to find the fish because they have more places to go, but in the long run this rise in the lake will benefit everyone.”
According to Schwan, the true affects of the water level won’t be seen until the weather warms up and the fish become more active.
“Fish I’m checking are looking pretty good in both size and number,” says Schwan. “People are excited to see the weather warm up so they can get out on the lake and see how the fishing is really going to be.”
Schwan urges boaters to check their boats to make sure everything is in working order and to be sure that everything they need is on board.
“For many people their boats have been in storage for the past few year,” adds Schwan. “This means they may not be currently licensed or they may have sustained some damage during storage. It is really important that you don’t just pull your boat out of storage and hit the lake. Take a day to make sure everything is in working order, from the motor to your life jackets and fire extinguisher.”
With lake levels always changing enthusiasts are excited to get out on the water because you never know how long the higher water levels will last.