Flood funding arrives

WORTHINGTON -- More than a year after torrential rains caused considerable damage to farmland across southwest Minnesota, a Presidential Disaster Declaration is finally bringing some much-needed financial assistance to landowners to repair, re-es...

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This photo, taken after June 2014 flooding in Rock County, shows cutting along the edge of a field where there should have been a grassed waterway. The lighter shaded area just above the water on the left side of the photo is where the topsoil completely washed away, exposing the clay. Submitted photo

WORTHINGTON - More than a year after torrential rains caused considerable damage to farmland across southwest Minnesota, a Presidential Disaster Declaration is finally bringing some much-needed financial assistance to landowners to repair, re-establish and create conservation practices.

Thirty-six counties in Minnesota - including Rock, Pipestone, Murray, Nobles and Jackson in the far southwest corner - will share in $10.6 million in funds to be administered through county Soil and Water Conservation District and Natural Resources Conservation Service offices. The funding is for flood damage that occurred from June 11 through July 11, 2014.
Rock County was awarded the largest share of funding at $1.17 million, with Nobles County getting $400,000 to assist landowners. It’s the second time the counties have received funding. In the initial allotment, Rock and Nobles counties each received $165,000.
The new money comes with a tight deadline for landowners to get on the list to access funds.
Nobles County SWCD Manager John Shea said he has to have all of the requests turned into the state’s Board of Water and Soil Resources by July 24. He asks that farmers stop by or call the office by July 22 to get included in this round of funding. Offices will continue to gather a list of names and projects if additional funding is available.

If landowners have photos of the damage, the offices will accept them, although Shea said it isn’t necessary.
“We need landowners to come in and tell us if there was any damage during that time and if they’re interested in doing a conservation practice,” said Shea.
Damages from the flooding ranged from topped terraces to gully erosion, streambank sloughing and washed-out grass waterways.
“We’ve had a lot of people come in since last year … saying gullies were so bad they couldn’t cross with their combine,” said NRCS District Conservationist Stephanie McLain. “We have a lot of people that have already identified these concerns, and we’ve already started working with them on these conservation practices.”
‘Good start’
Doug Bos, assistant director of the Rock County SWCD/Land Management office, said landowners have until the end of 2018 to make the repairs or install new practices if they receive funding in this current phase.
He said the $1.17 million coming to Rock County is “a very good start.”
“We had originally done a road assessment survey, and we had come up with erosion damage of close to $4 million,” said Bos, adding that Rock County has a list of nearly 60 landowners interested in doing projects - and that list could double after landowners learn there is financial assistance available.
In both counties, there are instances in which farmers have tried to repair some of the damage caused by last year’s flooding.
“Some farmers may have pushed the gullies shut, but because there weren’t adequate conservation practices put in place, a lot of those were blown out again this year,” Bos shared.
“Most likely, if it was a quick fix, with the rains this spring they might not have held,” added Shea. “Those projects would still be eligible because the damage occurred during that 2014 rain event.”
BWSR will prioritize applications for funding, with the focus initially on repairs or replacement of conservation practices that were in place prior to the flooding. New conservation practices will be second in line for funding, followed by new practices that would help prevent flood damage in the future, such as the installation of retention ponds or flood relief ponds.
Among practices eligible for funding include engineered grass waterways, water and sediment control basins, terraces, potentially some critical area plantings and possibly some streambank stabilization projects.
“(We need to) identify the sites, figure out what the problems are and then plan to fix those,” added McLain.
If all of the funding is allocated, Bos said Rock County could receive another $1.17 million.
Bos said the biggest challenge, particularly for Rock County, is having enough technical assistance (staff) to get the practices on the ground by the December 2018 deadline.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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