Corps’ drought plan threatens promised supply of water

Corps’ drought plan threatens promised supply of water.
1 / 2 COLEHARBOR, N.D. — Steve Knorr is absolutely sure he’ll get 24 inches of water on his crops this year.
He has millions invested, each dollar a reason to be concerned about an emerging plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that could imperil his access to canal water during an extreme drought, just when he needs it most.
The problem the corps hopes to forestall is what could happen when Lake Sakakawea drops extremely low in a drought while Lake Audubon remains at its standard operating pool.
All that pressure on one side of the embankment unanswered from the other side could lead to embankment failure, says Matt Nelson, an engineer from the corps’ water control section.
Nelson said the low water did allow the corps to observe the performance of 13 relief wells — installed at the time of construction on the Lake Sakakawea side in the 1950s precisely to relieve that unequal water pressure.
If the embankment is performing well under that severe loading, we could go to a higher number or it could go the other way," Nelson said.
"Here we are 70 years later, and we’re just learning that the relief wells don’t work.
Kip Kovar, Garrison Diversion Unit engineer, says the standard summer elevation of 1,847 feet in Lake Audubon is required to maintain flow through the canal headworks and push the water down the canal.
This way, water managers can plan.

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