Peggy Sanders: Confluence Chronicles – Where City & County Meet 6-27-11
There are farmers in northeastern South Dakota who have fields underwater for several years. Can you imagine? Ever the optimists, they say at least they got a break on their property taxes, a reduced rate but they still pay some. When corn and wheat are at record high levels, it must add insult to injury to not be able to produce crops. Farm fields that have not been underwater now may have recent standing water or are simply too wet to work the field and plant.
Now the snow is melting, the heavy rains have been falling and the dams were already full. In Pierre, S.D., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is going to be under severe scrutiny to see if they have been at fault for the major flooding in Pierre and Ft. Pierre.
It seems they have released water from Lake Oahe “by the book” and perhaps without regard for reality. They allowed some water to go out in the winter and spring, as to their guidelines but it was not nearly enough and now the towns are a mess. They look like war zones with berms and dikes and levees and sandbags; houses floating in the water outright, others are filled or partially filled with water.
The last flood there was in 1952 before the Oahe Dam was constructed. Those who live in the old flood plain were told by the Corps that there was no need to purchase flood insurance, the residents and apartment owners didn’t, and now they will pay the price big time. I know one man who owns 36 nice apartments and 70 garages in Ft. Pierre and they will all have to be rehabbed or removed. They won’t know for awhile. Without flood insurance it will cost well over a million dollars just for his losses.
People have been told the water is expected to remain at the high level for a good two months. Goodbye livable housing units! Two former governors of South Dakota have homes that are under attack and one of them has come out swinging at the Corps of Engineers.
However, if one builds next to a river, assurances from the Corps or not, wouldn’t common sense dictate that someday that river might rise up and be too big for the banks? I mean, it is a river, even if there is a large dam above the towns. It is hard to say how this will all flush out, so to speak.
There is a canyon outside of Hot Springs, S.D., where many houses have been built next to a river so small many would call it a creek. But one of these days, even though there are now flood control dams above Hot Springs, there will be a gully washer and those houses and residents will be in big trouble. It is inevitable. I hope they are insured.
Peggy writes from a high and dry sandy hilltop in southwestern South Dakota. Her internet latchstring is out at Peggy@PeggySands.com.