02 2011 »

N.D. set to ramp up lake access

By: Doug Leier, Grand Forks Herald

  The issue of access for hunting and fishing continues to percolate in my ever-scientific conversations at coffee shops and cafes. No matter where I go, big city or small town, people are concerned about access as it relates to North Dakota’s outdoors.

First and foremost, healthy fish and wildlife populations need habitat, and it helps to have suitable weather conditions. Even with great habitat and abundant wildlife, however, hunters still need a place to flush pheasants and anglers need a place to wet a line, either from shore, from a boat, or both.

Without a place to fish from shore, or a ramp to launch a boat on Lake Oahe, Devils Lake or the Missouri River, the health of the walleye or perch population doesn’t matter to the fishing public.

Statewide, North Dakota has more than 350 public boat ramps. Understand, however, that even in stable environments boat ramps need periodic work. When you add in rising and falling waters, it can make for a major summer work effort.

In the past decade, lakes Sakakawea and Oahe have had their share of ramp work because of falling water levels. Now that these Missouri River reservoirs are basically full, all regular access points are open.

At Devils Lake, however, the water is continuing to rise, and along with land and structures, it is also consuming boat ramps. While fish are flourishing at Devils Lake, Game and Fish and other local partners have a heavy workload this summer to maintain boating access.

To access Minnewauken Flats, a new boat ramp is planned for Round Lake on the southwestern side of the lake. This area is one of the highest priorities, but not a guarantee.

At Pelican Lake, north of state highway 19 across from Devils Lake, rising water has actually helped a proposed access site, as the projected rise in lake levels should provide enough slope for a new ramp that will allow boaters to launch.

In addition, the ramp on Six-Mile Bay will be extended to an elevation of 1,458 feet. The top of the ramp now is about 1,455 feet and the lake’s water level was 1,453.29 feet as of April 25, with another foot or more possible by the end of summer.

Meanwhile, the main access road to Grahams Island State Park sits at 1,455 feet, the same elevation as the lake’s projected rise. It’s not hard to figure out the problem there. Without an access road leading into the park, the ramp in the park won’t be of much use. Just a comment — it now appears the road work will not get done in time this spring/summer.

Henegar landing on Creel Bay is at an elevation of about 1,454, but the access will be closed again this summer because of continuing construction on the Devils Lake dike.

At Lakewood the ramp is at 1,453.8 feet, but plans are to extend it to 1,458.

On East Bay the ramp and parking area along Highway 20 will be extended 3 feet from its current elevation to 1,458.

At Black Tiger Bay, with the previous boat ramp site closed, Game and Fish has reached an agreement with the owner of a private campground along ND Highway 20 at the south end of Black Tiger Bay, and is planning to install a concrete ramp.

The Casino concrete ramp will be under water but the asphalt surrounding the ramp should provide adequate access this summer.

Some of this work will take time, but Devils Lake is such an important and popular fishery that maintaining access to is a top priority of not only the Game and Fish Department, but many other agencies and local organizations as well.

Leier is a biologist with the Game & Fish Department. He can be reached by email:dleier@nd.gov. Read his blog daily at dougleier.areavoices.com

Courtesy of the Grand Forks Herald.

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