Deal struck on Devils Lake diversion

Water from the controversial Devils Lake water diversion project in North Dakota has been pumped into a tributary of the Red River, which flows north into Manitoba.

Canada and the United States have reached a deal to end a dispute over the Devils Lake water diversion project. The agreement calls for both sides to design an advanced filter, if needed, to protect Manitoba waterways from foreign organisms.

Manitoba has been fighting the flood control project because of concerns that water from North Dakota could pollute the Red River and Lake Winnipeg.

As the deal was announced late Friday, water was already flowing north into a tributary of Manitoba's Red River.

North Dakota began testing the pumps on the flood control project earlier this week.

"We have been running them off and on," said North Dakota state engineer Dale Frink. "We have shutdown for the weekend ... but we do have water in the canal, and the water is flowing toward the Sheyenne River.

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer says he is pleased there's an agreement on a filtration system. The deal comes more than 18 months after Canada first called on the U.S. to have the Devils Lake project reviewed.

The state government installed a $50,000 gravel filter over the past week to screen out organisms larger than two millimeters in diameter, such as fish, fish eggs and some plants.

A permanent filter to be built over the next year could cost as much as $20 million – and may involve Canada picking up a portion of the cost.

Despite work on the filter, People to Save the Sheyenne, a citizens' group that has allied with Manitoba against the outlet, is dismayed the water is flowing at all.

"Any water is bad. It just sets a bad precedent," said Milton Sauer, the group's president. "It's just not the thing to do. But I'm afraid that's what's happening."