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May 06, 2011 06:09 PM

Bitter Lake Swallowing Farm Land

Waubay, SD


Farmers around Waubay are watching their land disappear. Bitter Lake is swallowing up farm land and covering thousands of acres.

Waves from the lake are all but knocking at the door of Bonnie Gaikowski's house near Waubay. Bitter is still on the rise and already covering five pastures and some farmland the Gaikowskis once used to feed their dairy cattle.

"With the farmland and pasture and all, there's 1500 acres under water, 1500 acres under water," Gaikowski said.

That's almost two and a half square miles. And without an outlet to Bitter Lake, the Gaikowskis don't see themselves getting it back any time soon.

Kurtus and Donna Jorgenson live down the road. They've lost 400 acres to Bitter and can only hope it ends there. They never thought they'd see the lake right up to their farm.

"It was way down to the south of us. And there was no water down in here whatsoever," Kurtus Jorgenson said.

Bitter is about ten times bigger than it was 20 to 25 years ago. It’s flooded people out and forced them to move. And the lake isn't done yet.

"I'm sure by the time the water all comes in here, it'll be pretty close to the house," Gaikowski said.

And if that happens, Gaikowski fears she'll have to pack up and leave herself. If they don't have access to land for feed, Gaikowski isn't sure how long they can keep cows on the place either.

"Some days you want to give up and then the next day I think, 'well, so what?' You know, that's the way life is," Gaikowski said.

Bitter Lake is now covering about 20,000 acres of land.
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