Letter from Langdon: River Resistance

The nation's hard-fought flood controls have been eroding; now another Missouri River flood isn't just a threat. It's guaranteed.

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Where U.S  rivers are concerned, the Mississippi gets credit for most water and widest from bank to bank.  But the longest river, the Amazon of the U.S., is only a tributary of Ole Miss, the Missouri at 2500 miles.

They don’t call it “Big Muddy” for nothing.

Muddy will be on a rampage in coming months for plenty of reasons. Number one is snowmelt in places like the Big Horn Mountains of Montana. Further south in the Colorado Rockies the Platte River puts in its two bits as it crosses Nebraska, bringing more snow and rainwater to Muddy at Plattsmouth, NE.

From there it’s downhill all the way to Langdon. Unfortunately, flood control is no longer job one. That’s why we got bad news this weekend about rising water levels and coming evacuations.
The best our government can do these days is to issue a simple warning; Look out below!

Flood control used to be everything, with recreation as a bonus. But as cities have grown bigger and demand for recreation and water grows, we want our flood-control lakes full to the rim. Then environmentalists jump on the band wagon. Dams are bad, and these river bottoms shouldn’t be farmed they say, because nature never intended that. That’s what happened along the Mississippi a few weeks ago when Birds Point Levee was opened to prevent bigger overflows elsewhere. The call went out to abandon those areas to the natural world.

Mother Nature talks to me quite a bit, and what I hear her say is that when human beings lose the resolve to fight, we lose.  We should protect the environment, and people too, because we’re all part of the same picture.

Associated Press
Jodi Owen and Ken Kerfront had piled sandbags around their home in Fort
Pierre, South Dakota, May 28, hoping to keep out waters of the swollen
Missouri River.

Mankind did not create these problems; they existed before us. As long as there have been soil and water we have had erosion. New river channels cut and old ones silted in as Muddy churned its way south. The river bottom farm we live on is laced from side to side and top to bottom with old river beds. Big Muddy and another river, the Nishnabotna, have meandered across this farm from one end to the other. For thousands of years the bluffs on the Nebraska side and the Loess Hills on the east are all that have kept them corralled.  That’s why our farm has six different soil types on just 176 acres.

The greatest generation’s greatest gift to all of us is work done by our fathers and grandfathers. Over the years we’ve squandered some of that work as flood control and navigation projects of the  ‘40s and ‘50s are giving way to surrender on the river. Here on the bottom at Langdon we’re set to lose our battle with Mother Nature as record snow melts and big rains meet clear lack of political will to cope with competing demands. Even lowly little ants don’t quit. Why do we?

Thank goodness they didn’t fight World War II the way we have managed our natural resources. If they had everyone west of the Missouri would bow to the east, while folks east of the Mississippi saluted the Fuehrer.

That still leaves the rest of us where we are now–caught in the middle.

Associated Press
The flooded Musselshell River near Harlow, Montana, enveloped a barn
May 26. After Montana’s torrential May rains, water was released from
dams into the Missouri River, bringing a chain of floods throughout the
Midwest.

There can be no bargaining with Dictators or Mother Nature. As the citizens of Joplin, Missouri, will testify, there is no middle ground. We must be willing to fight for what we want and then fight to keep it.

A torrent is on its way. This summer the Missouri will join the Mississippi and Mother Nature in trying to take back all we’ve gained in the last 100 years. Opportunists will make much of the fact. Corporations will try to turn it to their advantage and special interest groups will spin it into orbit. But America needs to know that our great flood control projects weren’t built for motor boats, river chutes, and pallid sturgeon. They were built for a reason by the greatest generation who knew that you don’t fight life and death wars to a draw.

Food, air, and water are essential to both life and freedom; flood control projects were built for a reason. It’s time to remember what that reason was.

 

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