January 17, 2005

Manitoba, ND partners to file court appeal of Devils Lake permit

The Manitoba government, along with partners in North Dakota, is launching a court appeal as part of the effort to deal with the actions of North Dakota state agencies in authorizing and proceeding with the Devils Lake outlet project. Manitoba believes that if the outlet project is allowed to proceed, water possibly containing harmful contaminants and foreign species will flow from Devils Lake in North Dakota into the Sheyenne and Red rivers and then into Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg.

"Water protection is a critical part of being good stewards of this precious resource," Water Stewardship Minister Steve Ashton said late last month. "As a result, Manitoba and our North Dakota partners are launching an appeal of the state court judgment made this summer which upheld issuance of a pollutant discharge permit for the project."

Last year Manitoba, along with People to Save the Sheyenne River (PSSS) and the Peterson Coulee Outlet Association (PCOA), filed a legal challenge in state court in Valley City, ND, opposing the discharge permit issued by the North Dakota Department of Health to the North Dakota State Water Commission that would authorize operation of the outlet from Devils Lake. The three parties are now filing a notice of appeal of the lower court action to the North Dakota Supreme Court.

A detailed brief outlining the legal reasons for the action will be filed within the next few months. Among other things, Manitoba, PSSS and the PCOA will argue that:

* the North Dakota Department of Health did not properly follow all procedures required by North Dakota law; and

* the discharge permit was issued in contravention of applicable water quality standards, especially those intended to prevent the release of harmful pollutants such as phosphorus and the potential introduction of foreign species from Devils Lake into the Sheyenne River and, ultimately, into Manitoba's environment.

"Manitoba continues to call on the U.S. federal government to join with Canada to have this issue referred to the independent, binational International Joint Commission for resolution, even though construction is continuing on the outlet project," said Ashton. "All available measures will be taken to halt this project including court action to ensure Manitoba's valuable ecosystem including Lake Winnipeg, the tenth largest freshwater lake in the world, is protected."

Unless halted, the State of North Dakota intends to begin operating its outlet from Devils Lake early this summer.

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