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CBC Radio, The Current
Devil's Lake
Description: Listen to Michael Byers, Academic Director, on CBC Radio - The Current as he speaks on the Devil's Lake transboundary water dispute.
Date: 20 April 2005
Source: CBC Radio - The Current
The Current: Part 2

Devil's Lake – Gary Doer

While the rest of the country shakes its head at the Gomery revelations or over election rumours, Manitobans are grumbling about a different kind of controversy. It involves an American lake and plans to divert its overflow into Canadian waters.

Devil’s Lake is located just south of Manitoba, on the other side of the border, in North Dakota. The lake is polluted, and persistent rains have swelled it to almost triple its original size, causing it to swallow up surrounding farmlands. And the cost of damages over the past decade are in the millions.

So North Dakota has come up with a plan: They've built an outlet that will drain excess water from Devil’s Lake into a nearby river. It all sounds pretty good – except the outlet could divert polluted water into the Red River, which runs north into Canada. This could eventually send contaminated water into Lake Winnipeg, and that has Manitobans, including Premier Gary Doer, alarmed.

Even though the outlet is nearly completed, the province is trying to stop the project. Earlier this week, the North Dakota Supreme Court heard arguments in the case. To discuss all these issues, we were joined by Premier Doer in our Winnipeg studio.

Devil's Lake – U.S.

Despite Manitoba's protests, the Devil’s Lake diversion project is well on its way to becoming a reality. In fact, the outlet – which has been in the works since 1993 – is already 80 per cent complete, and may be up and running by June.

Dale Frink has had a big hand in getting the project to the stage it's at today. He is North Dakota's state engineer, and he's in charge of the Devil’s Lake outlet for the state water commission. We reached him in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Devil's Lake – Implications

Well, forget softwood lumber or the American ban on Canadian beef. For some observers, the Devil’s Lake project is THE hot-button, cross-border issue to watch ... with implications far beyond the fate of Lake Winnipeg. If the diversion plans go ahead, they say, Canada's ability to control its own fresh water could be severely undermined.

Michael Byers has been following the dispute closely. He holds the Canada Research Chair in global politics and international law at the University of British Columbia. He's also academic director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues. We caught up with him today in London, England.

Click here for the CBC Radio - The Current website and click on Part 2 to listen

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