Johnson tours Mo. River flooding

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) said the flooding that marked the late spring and summer of 2011 continues to be �an advanced problem� for the affected areas in South Dakota and elsewhere.

So advanced, in fact, that he said Congress may become involved.

�From Montana to Missouri there is a complete agreement (of the) need for hearings on oversight,� Johnson said.

The senator made his remarks after a question-and-answer session with county, state and federal officials at the Clay County Courthouse Monday at the conclusion of a tour of flooded areas.

He visited Dakota Dunes, as well as the Riverside, Windstone and Ponderosa areas Monday morning.

�I�m seeking input wherever I can,� Johnson said. �I have my eye on the river at all times, and I�m seeking input (on) what needs to be happening.�

Dave Becker, Gavins Point project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers attributed the widespread floods to a series of circumstances, including heavy snow and rainfall on the upper plains � some areas of which had one year�s worth of precipitation in one week.

�Last year was the third-wettest year on the Missouri since 1888,� Baker said.

He added that the Corps knew it would be a wet year, so higher flows were released from Gavins Point Dam starting in late April. By early May, the dam was releasing 55,000 cubic feet of water per second (cfs).

Last year, the flows peaked around 49,000 cfs, Baker said.

Gavins Point currently releases 150,000 cfs, although starting Friday, Aug. 19, the Corps will begin stair-stepping down in 5,000 cfs increments each day until Aug. 30, at which point the release will be 90,000 cfs.

Johnson said he had attempted a tour earlier in the summer, but floodwaters were still too high.

�Things have changed (over the summer), especially down south,� he said. �I tried to visit Dakota Dunes, Riverside and Windstone, but was turned back originally. There was too much danger and too much activity to allow me to get into those places.�

After visiting, he said the areas that did or did not suffer damages did not always line up with expectations.

�I noticed that places I thought would be habitable are (under) water. Other places � looked good, but there was water damage in the basements,� Johnson said.

Raymond Roggow, emergency management director of Union County, said �you couldn�t outguess� much of the water damage.

�As a matter of fact, last week some homes came into our public information office that just had water for the first time. It just doesn�t make sense, but that�s what�s happened,� Roggow said.

He added that while public buildings �weren�t affected that bad,� 56 homes in Dakota Dunes were located near the river.

�Of those 56, 46 of those were really hit hard,� he said. �When we get on up into Deer Run, get on up into Windstone, those homes obviously had groundwater issues. Windstone got real close to having floodwater issues, but they were able to hold it back.�

The county road system is fine, but township roads show some devastation, Roggow said.

�Some of that�s been under 12 feet of water yet, so we don�t know what that�s going to look like until the water levels go down,� he said.

Additionally, residents displaced from their homes probably won�t get to return to them until September, Roggow added.

Clay County Commissioner Leo Powell said much of the damage in Clay County was on private land, although the county did provide sand in some areas.

In areas such as the Ponderosa, residents pooled their resources to stop floodwaters.

�If they hadn�t put probably $500,000 worth of rock in there, they probably wouldn�t be there,� Powell said. �I�m pretty sure the river would have cut that bank off. If you look at the front yards of some of those houses and then look back upstream, the water�s coming right at them.

�It�s the same thing at the mouth of the Vermillion River,� he said. �From the west side of the county to the east side of the county there�s been some bank erosion, some flooding, some homes and cabins that have been washed away. But everybody worked pretty hard stabilizing it.�

Clay County Emergency Manager Layne Stewart added that �most of the township damage� is 3 to 4 miles north of the mouth of the Vermillion River.

Johnson acknowledged the contributions private citizens put forth in the effort.

�The government puts out 75 percent of the revenue necessary to replace the materials, but the state contributes 10 percent,� he said. �But the other 15 percent belongs to the local people, and we hope that FEMA � contributes more private help, besides public help.�

The senator said this may not be a realistic goal, but �we need to recognize that private help, in past experience, ranges from $2,000-$3,000 apiece. Nobody�s getting rich off of private help.�

Roggow said FEMA has helped Union County by providing a check for approximately $312,000. Before that, some emergency funding had to be taken from the county�s highway department.

�(The FEMA funding) has really been helpful to keep our cash flow intact,� he said. �So, FEMA has been great in that respect, so my hat�s off to them for coming down and getting that accomplished so we have some actual cash to work with again.�

Johnson said he plans to continue his tour of flooded areas this week.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>