Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

July 1, 2002

Area high water rises to the extreme

Imagine trying to fish the north or south fork of the Crow River last week. Or taking a swim in Howard Lake or Mallard Pass Lake after the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency allowed the emergency dumping of sewage into the lakes and advised people not to swim in either lake until after July 3.

Think about all those who lost their homes and belongings and whose lives were dramatically changed.

Or, put yourself in the place of a nesting pheasant hen, worse yet, a baby chick. Think about all the inconveniences and hardships.

Think about all the damage, the junk that will have to be cleaned up, and not to forget, the smell many will have to deal with after the water dissipates.

Last week's high water and flooding throughout our area was dramatic, devastating to some, and in the minds of many area residents will long be remembered.

Without question, it was the most severe flooding I have ever seen in this area. Several older area residents echoed my opinion and could only recall the spring floods of 1965 as comparable.

With the event somewhat behind us, we can step back and assess the damage, not to those who were personally devastated, but to our environment, the animals we live with, and the land we live on.

Doing that is the only way we will be able to find a path that may limit the destruction and damage of similar heavy rainfalls in the future.

To me, and avid naturalist, outdoor enthusiast, landowner, and product of a small Minnesota dairy farm, it boils down to this. Food is supposed to be cheap, and to keep it cheap basically every farmer has to farm as efficiently as possible to stay in business and keep on farming.

A part of that efficiency is to till and tile more acres of the farm. When heavy rains and high water do come, the goal is to get rid of it as fast as possible.

For most, the faster the better. Growing cities and small towns with all kinds of tar aren't any different. Storm sewer lines work about the same as a tile line.

Throughout the process of growth and becoming more efficient, tile lines and drainage ditches became much more efficient than the five or 10 small potholes that dotted a 160-acre farm.

Not just more efficient for the farmer, but for all of us. Don't forget, food is supposed to be cheap.

Those five or 10 potholes that dotted a typical farm 40 years ago aren't there anymore. They are what held the water in heavy rains, prevented soil erosion, cleaned the water, and yes, limited the effects of flooding.

Tuesday, after the heavy rains finally ended and we were in the midst of flooding, I found myself walking in waste deep water in a small creek that cuts through a little chunk of land in the area that my wife and I own.

The creek had more than overflowed its banks, the current was fast, and the water was mud black. The creek drains land from about three or so miles to the north and northwest, then cuts through my property, and about a 1/4 mile down stream empties into the Crow River.

At first, the mess had me thinking, "How do all of those other guys get by with letting all their water tear up my land?"

Then, I looked at the tall grass and wildlife cover that was holding up the water, and thought how could I clean that creek out so I could get rid of the water faster and turn it into someone else's problem.

Then, as a big carp that came upstream from the Crow swam by my legs, I decided the buck and the water had to stop and slow down somewhere and get cleaned up before it did more damage to the river, wildlife, and the land we depend on.

Without any more said, we need to find ways to slow down the water, not speed it up. A few more holding areas in cities and small towns. A few more restored potholes and wetlands. A few more grass buffer and filter strips. Another buck for a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk that goes right to the farmer.

Sometimes it takes the extreme to make us think and react.

Outdoor notes

­ Be cautious around water. The water level on lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds in our area is very high and will probably remain that way for some time. Currents can be fast and very dangerous in steams and rivers, and in lakes submerged docks and floating debris can also be very dangerous.

­ Be advised that wake limits have been imposed on area lakes. Abiding by them while boating will help reduce the damage to shorelines.

­ After water levels lower, our area lakes, rivers, and streams may need one big clean-up job. On Dog Lake for example, the access was severely damaged by the heavy rains and will need a big fix-up before it's in shape to be used again.

­ Also, after the water drops and things dry out, the smell of those once flooded areas could be awful for awhile.

­ Nesting pheasant hens and young pheasant chicks, I'm sure, were severely hurt by the flooding. Most nesting habitat in our area is on low ground, and that low ground is now under water leaving very few places for pheasants to try re-nesting.

­ Look for the local mosquito population to skyrocket in the next couple weeks.

­ If you haven't had the chance to take a good look at the landscape and the effects of last week's flooding, do it, and bring your camera.

­ Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.

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