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Published August 29, 2009, 11:42 AM

Flooding leaves big gorge on North Dakota farm

LINTON, N.D. (AP) — Bob Feist can hardly bear to look at his south central North Dakota farmland that once held spring-fed ponds with minnows.

LINTON, N.D. (AP) — Bob Feist can hardly bear to look at his south central North Dakota farmland that once held spring-fed ponds with minnows.

Five months after spring flooding, he has a washout at least 15 feet deep, about 100 feet wide and about a half-mile long on his land northwest of Linton, about 60 miles south of Bismarck.

"Some people call it a mini-Grand Canyon," Feist said Friday. "It's pretty stark."

In some places, he said, "you could drive three semi trucks side by side and you'll probably still have room and not see the tops of them."

Floodwaters carved a gorge and destroyed nearly 400 trees, Feist said. The washout runs through the only access road into his yard. Two neighbors have been allowing him to drive on their land so he can get to his farm.

Todd Sando, the assistant State Water Commission engineer, said the flooding in March and April created washouts all over the state. In western North Dakota, south of Medora, it changed part of the Little Missouri River, he said.

Feist's land was hit twice. The second time, when nearby Sand Creek overflowed its banks on Easter weekend, it left what seems to be a permanent scar.

"What do you do with something like this? Where do you start?" Feist said.

To try to fix it alone would bankrupt him, he said. He has contacted state and federal water agencies as well as county commissioners for help.

Feist worries the land between the new gorge and the creek is unstable, and he mourns the loss of land and trees.

"I've shed a tear or two," he said. "I grew up on that farm. It was something I was going to pass on."

"I had this beautiful wetlands area, spring-fed ponds, minnows, crayfish and all kinds of aquatic things. All these ponds are gone. They've been filled in with soil. It's actually a scar that's never going to heal."

Authorities have been trying to get federal help to deal with river channel changes, bank erosion and spillway washouts around the state, Sando said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied a request to clean out sand and silt in Morton County, saying maintenance did not qualify, but officials are appealing, he said.

"It's going to take a while to recover from 2009," he said.

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