And here comes Big Sioux floodwaters

Posted March 12, 2020 at 7:27 pm

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By Julie Ann Madden

“I thought we might just escape out (of spring flooding this year),” said Doug Maurstad, who owns the residential property just west of the South Dakota-Iowa Bridge on S.D. Highway 48.

“The state (of South Dakota) won’t do anything,” he said sadly shaking his head. “It’s just going to flood, and we’re just going to have to push through.”

“There’s nothing we can do,” said Maurstad. “Nobody cares I don’t think.”

“When it damages your property and you have no recourse, there’s no sense in fixing it up until they fix the road,” he said.

“Just put in more sump pumps I guess,” said Maurstad after he viewed the Big Sioux River out of its banks with water gushing through the culverts under the highway, which was closed for seven months last year due to flood waters that didn’t recede until September and had significantly damaged the highway. “Our only way to tell if sump pumps are working is to look at our electric bill — we can’t get to the property (when the area floods as both Iowa and South Dakota roads will be under water and closed).”

“It’s just disgusting,” said Maurstad. “We want to fix our house up but there’s no sense putting money into it until it stops flooding.”

“I’m really disappointed,” he said. “The Corps of Engineers built the levees, then turned them over to the landowners who won’t fix them.”

“The state won’t do anything saying it’s a problem between the Corps of Engineers and the landowners,” said Maurstad, “and the county can’t do anything because they don’t have the money. It’s going to cost millions.”

“Government at its best,” he said, shaking his head again.

“We’re beating our heads against every wall as we turn,” said Maurstad. “One thing I hope never happens is mandatory buyback (where the government buys the property and lets nature take back the land).”

After a pause, he said, “Hopefully it won’t be a bad flood.”

“‘Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best’ isn’t going to work anymore,” said Maurstad.

The Big Sioux River left its banks last week as temperatures soared into the 60s and 70s.

On Friday, Union County Road No. 3, which runs north from S.D. Highway 48 toward Union Creek Lutheran Church, was closed by Union County officials as it went underwater.

As the adjacent fields filled with water, the floodwaters began lapping at the edges of S.D. Highway 48, which is scheduled for resurfacing this summer.

National Weather Service – Sioux Falls, S.D., officials reported on Sunday, March 8 the Big Sioux River had crested at 16.03 feet on Friday. Through Wednesday, the river should stay just below its 16 feet flood stage, then continue dropping below flood levels.

How much flooding Akron area residents will get depends on the precipitation the area gets over the next couple months, said National Weather Service – Sioux Falls, S.D. Meteorologist Andrew Kalin.

“A lot of the snow from north of Akron has melted but there is still some snow by Watertown, S.D.,” he said. “We’ve had an ideal snow melt this year with temperatures above freezing during the day and dropping below freezing at night.”

The forecast through mid-May is “slightly elevated above normal precipitation,” said Kalin, “but there is not a clear indication.”

A couple of Plymouth County farmers were predicting a “drought year” after the snow melt is gone.

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