High waters getting higher
High waters are getting higher around the swollen Missouri River from North Dakota to southern Iowa, causing residents to take action to protect life and property and farmers to start planning for a season with a lot of unplanted corn and soybean acres.
An above-normal snowpack in Montana is just starting to melt. Rain has been falling on the waterlogged soils of the Dakotas every few days. And the Missouri River reservoirs run by the Army Corps of Engineers are nearly full.
All that means there will be even more water headed your way if you farm along the Missouri River. "It's that increase that's catching farmers off guard," says North Dakota agriculture commissioner Doug Goehring.
“It will take about 60 days for the water to make it through the system,” says Aaron Krauter, State Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency in North Dakota.
From Fort Peck in Montana to the Gavins Point Dam at Yankton, South Dakota near Sioux City, the Corps will be forced to release record amounts of water by mid-June. According to a bulletin released by the Corps Thursday, All of the reservoirs except Fort Peck will be releasing 150,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) by June 15. That’s at least 2 times the previous records set in 1997 and 1975. Fort Peck will release 50,000 CFS, breaking the record at that dam of 35,000 CFS set in 1975.
“They’re backing up big time into Montana,” says Krauter.
But, it's not just the Missouri that's swelling into nearby fields and towns. The Souris River Basin of North Dakota, like the Missouri, entered the winter with a full soil profile with potholes full of water. Snowfall amounts doubled this winter. And all of that was followed by numerous major rain events. "For all of those reasons, our soils are extremely wet," says Mike Rose, an Extension Agent for North Dakota State University.
Now, that's turning a lot of adjacent countryside into temporary reservoirs, according to Brett Miller with North Dakota National Guard Visual Information. And Rose says farmers along the Souris River are getting washed out.
"We have about 20% to 25% of this year's crops planted here in north-central North Dakota," Rose said Friday. "I'm currently at a sandbagging station trying to protect the city of Minot, North Dakota. As you go north and west of here, the flooding gets worse."
In all, over 600,000 acres of durum wheat, spring wheat, canola, flax, corn, and barley will not get planted, Rose says.
"Tens of thousands of corn acres will be impacted, and this is corn that averages between 120 and 200 bushels per acre," says Goehring, who adds he has farm ground south of Bismark that he can't access. "I'm feeling [farmers'] pain personally. I feel bad for the farmers who have already planted and already have high-cost inputs involved."