<$BlogMetaData$>Chapter 2 ½ - Detour
Detour there’s a muddy road ahead. Detour, pay no mind to what it said. Detour there’s a muddy road ahead, I should have read that detour sign. (An old Hank Thompson song) Now I suppose you are shaking your head and wondering if I’ve lost mine. Well, I said a couple of weeks ago that I was going to concentrate on Hyperion. Well, the county commissioners have put up a detour sign that I just have to write about. I mean this is important. I believe it is a disaster waiting to happen.
The commissioners are in a quandary what to do about county road 17. It has flooded three times this year on the Sioux River and every time it floods, it wipes out county road 17. It is costing the county money to keep this road repaired even though they are getting money from FEMA. This has been going on for quite a few years. At the commissioners meeting last week, they discussed several options about what to do about the road.
Let’s close the road, no – let’s leave it open. Make it a minimum maintenance road, no – keep it as a viable road. Rebuild the dike, no – don’t rebuild the dike. Raise the road above the flood level of the river. No – do something else like rebuild the road but put in culverts. Back and forth, back and forth. In the end, no decision was made. It was like watching a tennis match. Never one time did they talk about consulting with an expert about this; it was 5 guys sitting around playing tiddely winks. They didn’t even say anything about talking to long time residents to get the history of this area and why the dike was left into disrepair or how long has the flooding been going on or even asking for their advice. They did table the issue though. I wonder if they have even gone out to look at the potential for solving the severe flooding problems. I think they are worried about the road, and they should be worried about the people who live in this area.
After the meeting I called a good friend of mine who is a geologist and worked for the South Dakota geological survey at USD before going into business (Hammond Wetmore Drilling) for himself drilling wells and working with things like water. Dick Hammond is from Spink and is very familiar and very knowledgeable about the problems along the Sioux River. Besides that, he just happens to be smart, (didn’t I just say that?) which is a BIG plus. He conducted a symposium several years ago about this very problem. (I hate the word symposium; it’s a hoity toity word)
Anyway, Dick said that first of all if you make a dike you choke the flow of the river which raises the crest and will flood out the Iowa side of the river. Second of all it will create a faster moving current and cause more problems than if you leave it alone. When the water is spread out over a mile or mile and a half you are dealing with nature. When man gets involved, the formula changes.
People might say that they didn’t have this problem in the past, but Dick said that the problems we have now are caused by people living along the river, and is only going to get worse. South Dakota and Iowa are allowing farmers to make ditches to alleviate the drainage problems in low land fields. Or, they are tiling the fields to direct the flow of the water towards a creek or waterway that is going to the river. What this is doing is decreasing the amount of time it takes the water to get to the major artery, which in this case is the Big Sioux. When this happens during a heavy rainfall or melting snow in the spring, the river doesn’t have time to react and dissipate the water, so we get floods. This is happening along the entire length of the river on the border, not just in this area. Water flows downhill. Duh!
We talked about the options that the commissioners talked about and he said abandoning the road is not going to solve the problem nor is making it a minimum maintenance road. Raising the level of the road is going to create the choke in the flow which is going to raise the crest making Akron add to the level of the dike on the Iowa side to keep the river from flooding Akron. Raising the level of County road 17 is in effect making a dike. So what do we do? My question is why are we taking so long to look for a solution? Are the commissioners looking for a solution because it is costing the county money or are they finally looking out for the residents of the area? I hope it is the latter and not the former. (right!)
I drove the road the other day and took a close look at what the damage is. Virtually all the gravel is washed into the ditches. The dike has a gap about the length of two football fields in it. This flooding also affects the roads that feed into county road 17. In simple words, it is a big big mess.
So what would you do? We cannot keep repairing this road every year and if it is only going to get worse what is it going to be like? Before the commissioners do something foolish, I sure hope they check into this and get an authoritative and knowledgeable (are those words the same?) answer. I guess it boils down to some farmers are going to get flooded out every year unless we do something, but where do we get the money? Whatever we do, let’s hope they think this thing through and not do something stupid. (To be continued :)