When Nature Goes Against You
Some of you may remember the story of Aral Sea, the largest lake slowly shrinking and dying, creating havoc in the lives of the people who live in the vicinity. This is the story of another lake that is doing just the opposite, growing uncontrolled, again creating havoc in the lives of the people who live nearby — think how helpless we are against the might of nature, despite our scientific progress and seemingly acquired mastery over nature!
To top it all, this lake is in the heart of the United States, in North Dakota to be precise, and called Devils Lake — how appropriate!
Dubbed as a slow-growing monster, the lake has been steadily expanding over the last two decades, devouring lands, buildings, and towns in its belly. Experts say most natural lakes are served by rivers or streams that carry away excess rain and snowmelt, containing the lake. Devils Lake however, does not have any interconnected river or stream; therefore, it swells up when there is excessive rainfall and floods its banks — and the increasing global warming is not helping its cause.
Joe Belford, a 72-year-old resident of Devils Lake, is also the county commissioner who has always lived in the area. He spends most of his time finding ways to control the flooding, and described this devastation as a “slow-moving torture.”
In the mid-1980's, another “closed-basin” lake in the country, the Great Salt Lake, created similar problems when it threatened to flood newly developed housing complexes near by. The state spent $70 million installing very large pumps to contain the damage and soon a dry spell began. The irony is that those huge pumps stand idle now.
More than 400 homes have been casualties of the Devils Lake rapid rising, which began in the early 1990s. The small town of Minnewaukan, which was once 8 miles away from the lake, is now engulfed on three sides, leaving the residents frantic for help. The town mayor, Trish McQuoid, fought back tears while commenting, “This is tearing people apart.”
There are many proposals on the table, and the federal government is also seeking long-term solutions; however, none of those proposed are easy to implement, with their effectiveness uncertain and cost prohibitive. This phenomena demonstrates how utterly helpless we are when nature goes against us, and even our impressive scientific achievements are unsuccessful.