Missouri River Rising: Flood Update from the peak?
Across South Dakota, our friends and neighbors are dealing with the flooding of the Missouri River basin and its tributaries. Because of unusual weather in Montana and North Dakota this spring, combined with decisions made in dam and reservoir management, the Missouri River reached a new record this summer, inundating the White River delta, parts of Chamberlain and Oacoma, and the road down to our farm. Our local farmers market is under 8 feet of water. Thus far we have been fortunate to have escaped the worst of the potential flood impacts, like the loss of rural water, but the floods have been a hassle, to put it lightly.
Here's a picture of the Missouri River hydrograph (courtesy of the USGS streamflow site). You could call this the 40 days of flooding. The previous record, 72.2 feet, was set May 6, 1997, and we passed that record this year between June 24 and 25, and haven't dropped below it since. Last summer, the reservoir level reached just over 68 feet, and we've been above that since June 22.
June 22 is also significant in that people flew over the farm and took some pictures that day, and Mark labeled Muddy Pumpkin Farms on one of them, along with the White River Delta. You can already see trees and the delta under water, and since then, the river has been 7 feet higher than it was that day.
As a side note, the Hoop House has its shade cloth on and has successfully lived through two strong wind storms, including one where our "very unofficial" estimate is that winds were in the 70-80 mph range based on the size of gravel dust hitting us in the face.
The flood has meant we have new fishing opportunities close by as you can see the kids fishing out front of Tracy and Bill's house, right in the front yard.
The frustration is that the gravel road in front of where they're fishing is the main access to get from the farm to town and to farmers markets. So we've been driving around the long way, an extra 20 miles or so each way. Our road looks like this.
We've been in flood stage for a month now, and have been above record levels for over two weeks. According to Corps of Engineers projections, we've hit the peak, and the waters should start receding now, but it may also be another ten days before the water drops below 1997's record levels, and who knows how much longer until it drops below the 65 feet flood stage. In the mean time, we'll be making do with floods, putting a few extra miles on our vehicles to bring you local food, and trying to keep our plants happy and healthy as we move into the summer's heat.
As the flood waters rise, we know that the desire for local food rises alongside it. Both forces are set against the backdrop of high modernist approaches to nature that the anthropologist James Scott has noted, typify government policies of the last half century in their attempt to tightly control nature. Whether high modernism seeks to dam the mighty Missouri or rides in the cab of a mega-tractor through monocrops of corn, this belief in the mastery of nature is slowing fading. We cannot tame the river nor irradicate the weeds.
Perhaps we can start adjusting to this new era by developing a more nuanced understanding of phrases like "natural disaster" and "control of nature." Until then, we'll keep growing your veggies!