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Summer season brings no relief from Perham-area lake flooding

It's hardly a scene of summer relaxation.

The flooding that hit Devils Lake cabins this spring hasn't let up for the summer season - instead, it's gotten worse.

A stretch of lake homes along the lake's drive are completely uninhabitable, with flooded yards leaving no points of entry. For families that look forward to summer on the lake, the water has turned their seasonal dream into a nightmare.

Clarence Bernier, a summer homeowner at the lake, has been measuring water levels since spring, and noticed that they peaked last week.

"If this was heading in the right direction, it would at least give us a little hope," Bernier said.

Bernier is the lucky one. His home, which he shares with another couple, sits on top of a hill, providing respite from the damp situation.

While his possessions are safe from the water, he's had to watch his neighbors struggle with the situation. He's the go-to man for many of the flooded cabin owners, as staying at their lake homes for extended periods of time is out of the question.

Along with some extra work, Bernier has also noticed the absence of his neighbors, which is strange for this time of year.

High water levels

In all his years at the lake, he's never witnessed anything like this.

Otter Tail County Land and Resource Director Bill Kalar said a number of factors have led to the prolonged flooding.

Water levels last fall have played a role in this summer's situation.

"Last fall, we went into the winter season with higher water levels than we usually have," Kalar said. "What we're seeing are those water levels last fall."

That, in part, explains why Devils and Little McDonald lake water levels haven't been dropping - there's just too much water.

A cooler than normal summer could also be to blame, as evaporation hasn't been as intense as summers in the past.

Then there's the issue of drainage. With more water than normal, the lakes' drainage systems haven't been able to handle the excess. And that's a problem officials say is difficult to remedy.

If a new drain was put in, Kalar said it would have to direct water downstream, where water levels are already too high. Any more flow that way could cause the same issue down the road.

"There's a lot of water to pass through," he said. "That's where the real problem is."

As far as the rest of the summer is concerned, Kalar said it's anybody's guess as to whether or not residents will be back at their lake homes. Looking ahead to next year, he said his department, along with the Department of Natural Resources, will keep an eye on the same factors that made this year a nightmare for cabin-goers.