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Boyer Lake spills onto Highway 10

Boyer Lake flooding

Motorists heading to Minnesota lakes country on Memorial Day weekend take note: High water on Boyer Lake could slow traffic due to lane closures on Highway 10 between Lake Park and Audubon.

Water from Boyer Lake, which has risen 9 feet in the prolonged wet cycle, is overtopping a sandbag barrier built to keep water off Highway 10 at a location about 35 miles east of Fargo-Moorhead.

"There's tons of signs and a lot of direction" to warn and guide motorists through the single-lane area, Dana Casey Hanson, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said Friday.

The lane closures, which involve one lane in both the twin-lane westbound and eastbound portions of the divided highway, were designed to maintain existing speed limits, she said.

"However, due to high traffic volumes between Fargo-Moorhead and Detroit Lakes this weekend, motorists will likely encounter delays at that location," Hanson said.

Department of Transportation officials have no idea how long the lane closures will be needed.

"It depends on what the water does, and that's impossible to predict," Hanson said. "We're keeping a real close eye on it, taking it day by day."

Meanwhile, crews began work Wednesday to install an outlet that will lower Boyer Lake to alleviate the spillover problem. Water should begin flowing June 15.

Current plans would reduce the lake level by 3 or 4 feet, said Bruce Albright, administrator of the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District.

Water managers could draw down Boyer Lake by at least 6 feet, to the ordinary high-water mark, but don't plan to go that far, he said.

A permit for the project issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also applies to Little Boyer Lake and Lake Labelle.

The excess water from that chain of lakes, which currently have no outlet, will drain into Becker County Ditch No. 9 and eventually into the Buffalo River, a tributary of the Red River.

The expected flow into the Buffalo River is 7 cubic feet per second, Albright said. The water quality of the lakes exceeds the water quality of the Buffalo and Red rivers, he said.

The permit requires the outlets, which have gates, to stop running if invasive species are found in the lakes. The outlets would not run during times of flooding on the Buffalo or Red rivers, Albright said.

"We close these outlets so we're not adding insult to injury," he said, "so while they're outlets, they're also flood control."

Similar outlets are under consideration for six small projects in the Buffalo-Red River Watershed, which has been beset by chronic flooding dating back to 1993. They're miniature versions of the chronic flood of North Dakota's Devils Lake, which has risen more than 28 feet and more than tripled in size.

"We've all got our share of problems with this wet cycle," Albright said.