tagged w/ Missouri River
Mason Hansen guns his pickup and cranks the steering wheel to spin through sand up to 4 feet high, but this is no day at the beach.
Hanson once grew corn and soybeans in the sandy wasteland in western Iowa, and his frustration is clear. Despite months spent hauling away tons of sand dropped when the flooded Missouri River engulfed his farm last summer, parts of the property still look like a desert.
Hundreds of farmers are still struggling to remove sand and fill holes gouged by the Missouri River, which swelled with rain and snowmelt, overflowed its banks and damaged thousands of acres along its 2,341-mile route from Montana through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. The worst damage and the largest sand deposits were in Iowa and Nebraska.
"We'll be working on this for years," Hansen said. "It'll never be right. Ever. People don't have any idea how big of a mess this is."
Hansen has spent the past nine months pushing sand off the land he has farmed since 2000 near Missouri Valley, about 25 miles north of Omaha, Neb. Throughout the mild winter, he worked with his neighbor and two farm employees to clear 140 acres, but about 160 acres are still buried under sand.
The work is tedious. As the men scrape away the sand with bulldozers, they must stop repeatedly to pull out equipment that has become stuck in the still soggy fields.
As they work, catfish swim in a 30-foot-deep hole scoured out by the river, and a faint sandy haze clouds the air. On days when the wind picks up, sandstorms sweep through the fields, blinding workers as they dig into the ground.
"We have the means and the ability to fix it," Hansen said. "... But when you have to come out here and deal with it all the time, it gets old."
Shawn Shouse, an Iowa State University engineer and agribusiness expert, said most farmers can repair their land, but for some it will take another year or two of work. The first chore is removing the sand.
"The sand doesn't hold nutrients and water the way soil does, so it's not suitable for growing crops," he said. "If the deposits are thin, they can stir them into the soil and probably get along well. But when the deposits are several feet thick, they really have to move that sand somewhere else. That can be really expensive _ and you have to figure out what to do with it."
Shouse said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prohibits farmers from dumping sand back into the river without a federal permit, so most of it gets piled along the fields and used to fill giant holes left by the water.
That's what Hanson has done. But even when the sand is cleared, farmers' problems aren't over.
The sand and months underwater killed crucial microbes in the soil that help crops grow. Restoring those microbes, which develop naturally on plant roots, could take several years. Farmers plant corn, knowing it will grow inefficiently until enough microbes get back into the soil.
In Iowa, the flood inundated nearly 256,000 acres of cropland in six western counties, while in Nebraska, it swamped about 119,000 acres. Dan Steinkruger, the Farm Service Agency's Nebraska state executive director, said Iowa has more low-lying fields along the banks than his state.
Farmers in Nebraska and western Iowa lost a combined $300 million or more in crop sales and other economic activity to the flooding, according to the two states' Farm Bureaus.
Neither the Farm Service Agency nor other federal and state agencies have kept tabs on how much land has been cleared so far. But in speaking with farmers, it appears there is a long way to go.
"It's just totally, totally devastating," Olson said. "The dollar amount for what it takes to put it all back together again is going to be tremendous. And it's going to cost you, the taxpayer, in case you haven't already figured that out."
More at the linkMason Hansen guns his pickup and cranks the steering wheel to spin through sand up to... more
An Exxon Mobil pipeline that ruptured, leaking oil into Yellowstone River, may have sometimes carried a heavier and more toxic form of crude than initially thought, federal regulators said on Thursday.
The U.S. Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokeswoman Patricia Klinger said her office had learned that the pipeline may have been used to carry heavier crude.
"I just found out that apparently, and the regional folks just found out, there is an interconnect on the pipeline that possibly does carry some oil out of Canada," she said in response to a question about tar sands crude in the pipeline.
That a pipeline thought to transport only "sweet," low sulfur crude could have carried so-called tar sands crude from Canada raised concerns by health and environmental officials, even as Exxon officials said the heavier oil was not flowing through the Silvertip pipeline when it broke on July 1.
"The actual crude in the line at the point of the incident was a blend of crudes from Wyoming," Exxon spokesman George Pietrogallo told Reuters in an email on Thursday.
Exxon was responding to a question about whether tar sands crude had ever flowed in the pipeline. Almost all the oil produced in Canada's Alberta fields is from tar sands.
The chemistry of tar sands oil, derived from tar sands or bitumen and sweet crude is significantly different, said Ronald Kendall, head of the environmental toxicology department at Texas Tech University.
"Tar sands oil is in itself heavier oil and it contains more compounds that are toxic and may contain heavy metals like lead," Kendall said.
In a July 6 email to Reuters, Exxon spokesman Kevin Allexon said the crude carried by the pipeline "does not originate from Alberta" but from fields on the Montana-Wyoming border. On Thursday, Exxon revised that.
"The pipeline carries a variety of different production fields in the U.S. and Canada," Pietrogallo said in the email.
Tar sands crude may cause more wear and tear on pipes because of its chemical makeup, including corrosive and abrasive agents, said Tom Finch, the pipeline administration's technical services director for the western regional office.
Federal inspectors were trying to determine if transport of tar sands crude could have triggered internal corrosion that may have played a role in the rupture, he said.
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer faulted Exxon for failing to tell the state exactly what kinds of crude ran in the pipeline or spell out what hazardous chemicals were in the mix now contaminating riverside properties.
"Since they dumped that oil into the river that the state owns and manages, since they have spread oil in a film across 150 separate properties, since the film is over fishing access sites and state parks, we thought it would be appropriate to know what it is," Schweitzer said.
Richard Opper, head of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said he was surprised to learn the pipeline buried in the streambed of the Yellowstone may sometimes have moved tar sands crude from Canada.
"If the question is, did we know it was carrying tar sands oil? Hell, no," he said in an interview on Thursday. "If companies are changing the kinds of materials in pipelines to mixes that make them more likely they will leak or rupture, that raises huge concerns."
Exxon has apologized for the spill, which it estimates at 42,000 gallons, and pledged to restore a river prized for its near pristine waters, scenic beauty and abundance of wildlife.
EPA officials are analyzing the chemical fingerprint of the oil which, depending on its source, could contain anything from benzene, a known carcinogen, to hexane, a toxin that can damage the human nervous system.
More at the linkAn Exxon Mobil pipeline that ruptured, leaking oil into Yellowstone River, may have... more
Tonight I was asked if I am a photographer and my answer was no, but I wasn't asked by an adult, it was a kid. She then told me that I am in fact a photographer because I take pictures. I suppose she is right, the problem is I am a photographer who is self taught and as such I do not have an audience. I've been studying the art of photography my whole life, but just recently I've devoted my life to being on the move and taking photos. I document nearly every day now, in an effort to learn my camera better as well as tell my story. At this point I need to find a way to continue my education, whether it be through my project twathorse or through attending art school. Either way, I'm documenting the journey, it is here for you to follow, and I assure you it will be a fun ride.Tonight I was asked if I am a photographer and my answer was no, but I wasn't... more
Just look at this EXXON flunky saying, we understand... we understand.... we understand. Excuse me, but you don't understand anything but $$$$$$$$$$. Once again a major spill and the one in charge KNOWS NOTHING. Doesn't know how it happened, how far it has gone, what it has done, what people are being exposed to. Cover up and backtracking. That's all we get from these amoral bastards.
And personally, I don't give a damn how many people they say they have on this now putting diapers down...STOP POLLUTING OUR WATERWAYS!Just look at this EXXON flunky saying, we understand... we understand.... we... more
Floodwaters creep near nuke plants
Officials monitoring rising floodwaters at Nebraska nuclear plants
By the CNN Wire Staff
June 23, 2011 2:06 p.m. EDT
The Cooper Nuclear Station in Nebraska is under an "unusual event declaration" because of floodwaters nearby.
Critical gear at two Nebraska power plants has been protected from flooding, the NRC says
Some of the grounds at the Fort Calhoun plant, shut down since April, are under water
Utility sets up "rumor control" page to battle false reports of flood damage
Photo: The Cooper Nuclear Station in Nebraska is under an "unusual event declaration" because of floodwaters nearby.
(CNN) -- U.S. nuclear regulators say two Nebraska nuclear power plants have protected critical equipment from the rising waters of the Missouri River even though flooding has reached the grounds of one of them.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is confident those safeguards will prevent a disaster at either plant even though the Missouri is expected to remain flooded for several weeks, NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said Thursday.
The Fort Calhoun plant, about 20 miles north of Omaha, was shut down for refueling in April. Parts of the grounds are already under two feet of water as the swollen Missouri overflows its banks. But the Omaha Public Power District, which owns the plant, has built flood walls around the reactor, transformers and the plant's electrical switchyard, the NRC said.
"They've surrounded all the vital equipment with berms," Dricks said.
Dricks said the NRC has sent additional inspectors to Fort Calhoun, which declared an "unusual event" -- the lowest level of alert -- on June 6 due to rising water. Six inspectors are now monitoring conditions there around the clock, Dricks said.
The Cooper Nuclear Station, about 80 miles south of Omaha, remains operating at full power. The plant issued an unusual event declaration on Sunday as water levels rose, but the current level is two feet below the plant's elevation, Dricks said.
The NRC will dispatch additional inspectors to the plant "if conditions warrant," Dricks said.
Heavy rainfall in Montana and North Dakota, combined with melting snow from the Rocky Mountains, have sent the Missouri urging downstream this summer. The river washed over and punched through levees in nearby northwestern Missouri over the weekend, spurring authorities to urge about 250 nearby residents to leave their homes.
The 6 to 12 inches of rainfall in the upper Missouri basin in the past few weeks is nearly a normal year's worth, and runoff from the mountain snowpack is 140% of normal, according to weather forecasters.
And CNN affiliate KETV reported Wednesday that, as a precautionary move, the Cooper facility is keeping dozens of staff members onsite around the clock. The station reported that about 60 people are sleeping on cots at the plant and that the staffers are being rotated out every two days.
It was catastrophic flooding from Japan's March 11 tsunami that knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, resulting in three reactors melting down and producing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. This year's Midwestern flooding has also led to a spate of rumors about the Fort Calhoun plant that Omaha Public Power and the NRC have been trying to knock down.
The utility has set up a "flood rumor control" page to reassure the public that there has been no release of radioactivity from the plant. An electrical fire June 7 did knock out cooling to its spent fuel storage pool for about 90 minutes, but the coolant water did not reach a boiling point before backup pumps went into service, it said.
"People are getting scared by a lot of the misinformation," Dricks said. "It's primarily coming from Internet bloggers rather than the mainstream media. None of them have bothered to check with us."
CNN's Matt Smith contributed to this report.Floodwaters creep near nuke plants... more
The rapidly rising Souris River poured over flood defenses in Minot, North Dakota on Wednesday, overwhelming efforts to delay the deluge and forcing the immediate evacuation of thousands of homes.
City officials had ordered residents to vacate about a quarter of North Dakota's fourth-largest city, but the massive water flows from heavy rains in Canada hastened the evacuation by about five hours as defenses began to fail.
Up to 12,000 residents live in areas expected to be swamped by floodwaters projected to smash a 130-year-old record by up to 5 feet. Emergency sirens sounded about 1 p.m. indicating that water was flowing over levees in flood-threatened areas.
"You hate to admit defeat at any time, but as far as our permanent dike, it can't handle the kind of water that we are going to see," Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman told reporters at an evening news conference.
Zimbelman said the evacuation has been orderly, no injuries have been reported and no more evacuations are anticipated.
The Souris River surpassed on Wednesday its peak level from a historic 1969 flood that local residents had used as a benchmark. It is projected to beat that mark by about 7 feet,
Officials had warned residents of the possible earlier evacuation and had urged them to map out a direct route to higher ground if the warning sirens sounded.
Heavy rains over the past six weeks have swelled Canadian reservoirs in the Souris River basin, forcing unprecedented water releases. In turn, U.S. officials must release water from the Lake Darling Dam above Minot at a rate more than double what the recently fortified protections can bear.
"We have raised them three or four times, but there is just not enough time to raise them any higher," Shannon Bauer, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview. "Also, they are saturated. If you add more material to them they won't last."
As many as 5,000 buildings in Minot are threatened by the flooding that could keep the area inundated for two weeks or more, officials said.
A dozen National Guard teams were going house-to-house to make sure people have evacuated and will provide security for the area, National Guard General David Sprynczynatyk said.
A National Weather Service flash flood warning Wednesday extended from Burlington, through Minot and Logan and Sawyer.
The massive flooding on the Souris River, which flows into the Red River basin, was the latest problem as flooding threatens communities from Montana through Missouri.
The swelling Missouri River threatens the North Dakota capital of Bismarck, the South Dakota capital of Pierre and other communities for hundreds of miles downstream.
'DRAMATIC' SURGE COMING
City, state and federal officials scanned the Minot area by helicopter Wednesday, finding four or five neighborhoods where water was slowly rolling over levees, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple told reporters.
The rolling water begins to erode flood protections slowly at first and then accelerates, a process that will speed up as higher water releases reach Minot, officials said.
Officials were timing the sharpest increases in release rates so the water reaches Minot during the daylight and the biggest surge was expected within days.
"It will be dramatic and I think some people will actually no doubt feel alarmed at the speed with which the water comes up in Minot," Dalrymple said. "In two days time it will be a very, very rapid rise."
The Corps has increased and accelerated planned water releases from the Lake Darling Dam. It was releasing 12,000 cubic feet per second Wednesday afternoon and expects to increase that to 18,000 on Thursday and 22,000 on Friday.
The peak flows at the Broadway Bridge in Minot would reach 24,000 cubic feet per second on Sunday, making water levels there some 5 feet above the record set in 1881. Flood defenses were rated to about 9,500 cubic feet per second.
The Corps expects peak releases to hold for up to six days before a gradual reduction of releases over possibly two weeks, but cannot predict how quickly water will recede from flooded areas, Lieutenant Colonel Kendall Bergmann told reporters.
Amtrak suspended Empire Builder service Tuesday in part of Minnesota, North Dakota and eastern Montana due to flooding.
Heavy rains added to woes across the Missouri River basin from Montana through Missouri earlier this week and forced federal officials to adjust planned water release rates from some of its six reservoirs on the Upper Missouri River.
Rates already are roughly double the previous records and the Corps plans to increase the expected maximum at the key Gavins Point Dam on the South Dakota-Nebraska border.
The Missouri River runs freely from Gavins Point for more than 800 miles to the Mississippi River near St. Louis, making the releases from the dam a focus for downstream residents.
Gavins Point water releases are scheduled to reach 160,000 cubic feet per second on Thursday. It plans to hold peak releases from the dams at least through mid-August.
Levee failures have forced mandatory evacuations of several towns near the Missouri River and the heavy rains and increased releases added to local concerns.
More at the link.The rapidly rising Souris River poured over flood defenses in Minot, North Dakota on... more
Towns from Montana to Iowa are bracing for flood waters as heavy rains fall across the region and warm temperatures melt record snowfall.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to release an unprecedented volume of water from the Upper Missouri River, and states downriver from the northern reservoirs will be especially hard hit. The Corps has been increasing the amount of water released throughout June, hitting 4,247 cubic meters (150,000 cubic feet) per second this week—more than the flow over Niagra Falls, reported The Kansas City Star.
The high water levels are due to heavy rainfall in the northern plains states, as well as the melting of record snowfalls, which has prompted the Corps to release more water from northern reservoirs in order to preserve dam infrastructure. If too much water is allowed to build behind the dams, they could breach and cause uncontrolled flooding, Reuters reported. Similar measures were taken earlier this year when flood waters from the Mississippi River were diverted into spillways to protect population centers in Louisiana.
Communities in the Missouri River’s natural floodplain are expected to see water levels above 100-year flood limits, according to a South Dakota government press release. Quoted in the release, South Dakota’s governor Dennis Daugaard said, “This isn’t a case of whether downstream residents will be hit with this. They will be.”
Earlier this month, Daugaard issued an evacuation request to all those living in the community of Dakota Dunes, located in the southeastern corner of the state. He warned that residents could be away from their homes for as long as two months because of continued flooding.
To protect the property, 200 South Dakota National Guard members and two Blackhawk helicopters were ordered to pile up sandbags and build additional walls and levees. Other National Guard units built emergency levees in the capital city of Pierre, along with neighboring Fort Pierre, with hopes of keeping flood waters at bay.
The water management practices used by the Corps—which are largely seen as the cause of flooding in these areas—are being criticized by politicians from states along the Missouri River. Many are calling for new flood-control policy, The Kansas City Star reported. But the Corps has defended its actions, saying that unexpected weather conditions have made high-water releases necessary in order to protect both the reservoir system and human life.
“We are not managing the river, the river is managing us,” said Sam Graves, a U.S. Representative from Missouri, as quoted in The Kansas City Star.Towns from Montana to Iowa are bracing for flood waters as heavy rains fall across the... more
Radiation, at minimum in the form of tritium, and more likely other particles and radionuclides, are leaking into the Missouri River from the Fort Calhoun nuclear generation plant in Nebraska.
I do not have proof. What I do have is the knowledge that every reactor is susceptible to small leaks at any time. Typically they are undiscovered and thus unreported – they are a few drops here and a few drops there from an improper weld or a stressed fitting – maybe the last one of the day before pau-hana time. And he intended to check it later, but never did. New baby, vacation, other things to think about. So thirty years later there are a couple gallons of it sitting under a pipe somewhere, not visible from the inspection point – and hey, this is all sealed up anyway….except for that pesky water leak the NRC is upset about…but a little water can’t hurt….
Until the plant gets submerged — or nearly so by a fast-running river which doesn’t cover the top (yet) but sure washes out all the leaky lines and the incomplete repair jobs which we didn’t care much about at the time because the river would never go that high.
So we are all standing on top of the buildings watching water pour in one side and out the other. Sandbags are sandbags. One million gallons of water a second washes sandbags away and all the cute little plastic pipes full of water – supported by sandbags and chain and not designed to hold 8 million pounds of water a second. Tomorrow it might be 150 million gallons of water a minute. If the dams hold. But we all know they aren’t going to — they are are right at the top of the US DAM potential failure list. The ‘domino’ dams.
contRadiation, at minimum in the form of tritium, and more likely other particles and... more
Communities along the Missouri River including Dakota Dunes, SD, Sioux City, Iowa, and South Sioux City, Nebr., are preparing for anticipated floods in the wake of record high releases from upstream Missouri River reservoirs.
Downstream from all the water backed up in Lake McConaughy and the Missouri River reservoirs, Nebraskans are coming to grips with flooding potential.
Having seen the situation unfolding from the air earlier this week at Niobrara, Blair, Omaha and elsewhere, Al Berndt knows he needs to give the situation his full attention.
"I will frame it this way," Berndt said Thursday on behalf of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, "at any point when we activate the State Emergency Operation Center, it's a 10."
"In terms of flows and knowing now what's coming, this is our 10."
Heavy precipitation in Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, together with melting snow from higher altitudes, is putting unprecedented pressure on reservoirs that already are at or near spillway capacity.
Speaking in terms of once-in-a-century floods might seem off base, considering the series of dams and reservoirs built to control flooding began operating in the middle of the last century.
Or maybe not.
As Berndt pointed out, there's not much control left when the storage capacity is stretched to a point where water has to be released at the same rate it's coming in.
"The quicker the water comes into the system up there," he said, "the quicker we'll see it and the quicker they'll have to pass it down here."
Neither Nebraska emergency management officials nor the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was willing to estimate how many people might have to be evacuated in the state before the threat eases.
"We're dealing with two rivers at different ends of the state that are basically doing the same thing," Berndt said of the Platte and the Missouri.
In one sign of what's to come, Nebraska 2 was reduced to one-way traffic Thursday near the Iowa border at Nebraska City.
Gas pumps at the nearby intersection with Interstate 29 were pulled.
Meanwhile, in the latest in a series of history-making decisions, the Corps announced it would open spillway gates Friday morning on the Big Bend Dam near Fort Thompson, S.D., to pass floodwater from Lake Sharpe to Lake Francis Case for the first time since the dam went into service in 1963.
"Rapidly changing weather conditions in Montana, northern Wyoming and the western Dakotas have prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make adjustments to previously announced releases from Garrison Reservoir (in North Dakota) in order to evacuate floodwaters out of the Missouri River main-stem reservoir system," said a Thursday announcement.
Berndt is among flood-emergency officials saying it will get worse before it gets better.
"How much worse is anybody's guess," he said. "I think we have seen, especially with the Platte over the winter, the water will remain high for an extended period of time. Displaced people are going to be out of their homes."
In the decades since the Missouri reservoirs were filled, there has been frequent argument among river interests in a given year about how much water to hold back for recreation and how much to release for navigation and other purposes.
Mike Jess, former director of what was then known as the Nebraska Department of Water Resources, doesn't see much room for argument about what the Corps could or should have done headed into 2011.
"Circumstances this year are just so extraordinary with the snowpack that's accumulated over the winter and the spring rains," Jess said. "If the Corps had done things significantly differently, I don't think it would make much difference."
The flood threat is real, Jess said.
http://journalstar.com/news/local/article_47392598-56b8-5563-80fc-781239e1471b.htmlCommunities along the Missouri River including Dakota Dunes, SD, Sioux City, Iowa, and... more
Governor Daugaard Calls for Residents of Dakota Dunes to Begin Planning for Evacuation on Thursday
PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced today that, based on projections by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, all residents of Dakota Dunes should immediately begin making plans to evacuate later this week, due to Missouri River flooding.
Residents should have their possessions moved, homes secured and be out of those homes by late Thursday, June 2. They should expect to be away from their homes for as much as two months because elevated releases of water from the mainstem dams will continue for several weeks.
"State and local officials are coordinating to respond to this flooding, and we are considering all possible protective measures," Gov. Daugaard said. "Every property owner in Dakota Dunes should assume the worst – that protective measures will be impossible or will fail – and should act now to remove their possessions and secure their homes."
The Corps of Engineers now projects that, once water releases reach a maximum flow of 150,000 cubic feet per second (CFS), water levels in Dakota Dunes will reach 1,098 feet above sea level. That means protective measures should be built to 1,100 feet above sea level.
When will this begin and for how long will it last?
According to Corps' plans, water releases from Gavins Point Dam Dam will increase gradually beginning today and continue through the end of this week. Beginning next week, water releases will increase more rapidly and will reach a maximum of 150,000 CFS by mid-June.
Explanation of the cause:
Over the past several days, the Corps of Engineers dramatically increased its calculation of water releases required from the mainstem dams on the Missouri River. The Corps believes that this increased water release is necessary to avoid overtopping of the spillways.
Huge rainfalls in Wyoming, Montana, and western North Dakota and South Dakota over the past month have exceeded rainfall in a normal year. This has used capacity of the reservoir system that had been reserved to accommodate the annual snowmelt. In addition, mountain snowpack is 135 percent to 140 percent of normal, and it is melting at a later time. As a result, all the moisture will require the Corps to increase water flows to unprecedented levels.Governor Daugaard Calls for Residents of Dakota Dunes to Begin Planning for Evacuation... more
FARGO, North Dakota (CNN) -- Parts of North Dakota's capital sat underwater Thursday, a precursor to what could happen in coming days if rivers in the state continue to rise toward historic levels and overflow. The Southport section of Bismarck was swamped with a few inches to a several feet of water, North Dakota emergency officials said.
The National Weather Service issued a foreboding forecast for the state, saying that many rivers were at flood level -- the worst being the Red River, which was predicted to have a historic 41-foot crest by Saturday.
In North Dakota, hundreds of volunteers filled sandbags and scrambled to build dikes, and officials evacuated thousands of residents from affected areas.
Video of North Dakotan's Brace For Flooding
Video of Flooding Compounded By Snow
http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/weather/03/26/floods.north.dakota/index.html#cnnSTCVideoFARGO, North Dakota (CNN) -- Parts of North Dakota's capital sat underwater... more