November 15, 2005

Disputed Lake Has No Invasive Species

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Despite a study that found no invasive fish or plants in North Dakota's Devils Lake, from which water is being drained to end up in Canada, the Canadian province of Manitoba said on Tuesday it still wants the water filtered more.

The study did find four types of toxin-causing algae in Devils Lake and three parasites that are not found in Canadian waters and could have an impact on Manitoba's Lake Winnipeg, the world's 10th largest freshwater lake and home to a C$25 million commercial fishery.

Canadian officials tried unsuccessfully to stop North Dakota from pumping water from land-locked Devils Lake, which has swallowed up more than 90,000 acres of land as it tripled in size in 12 years of wet weather.

Water from the lake, which is about 90 miles west of Grand Forks, North Dakota, has been diverted through a canal into the Sheyenne River, which drains into the Red River, which then carries it north to Lake Winnipeg, eventually reaching Hudson Bay.

U.S. officials have long maintained the water is safe but the issue has been diplomatic sore point, with Canada fearing environmental damage. Pumping began in August using a temporary gravel filter to trap any escaping organisms.

Manitoba Water Stewardship Minister Steve Ashton said it was good that no invasive species such as zebra mussels have been found, but he added the study still showed a more advanced filter barrier is needed.

Canada and the United States have agreed that a more advanced filtering system will be built based on studies of the lake water.