Watching the floodwaters in Beadle County


Flooding was one of 2019’s biggest stories in KELOLAND, and it could easily be a huge story in 2020. According to the National Weather Service on Monday, there were two river gauges in South Dakota at a “Major Flooding” stage: the James River close to Ashton and the James River at Huron.

42-year-old Joey Waldner lives here at Huron Colony, a Hutterite community next to the James River north of Huron.

“I was elected farm manager, and it’s my duty to take care of the ground out there and the farm work and all that stuff, and I’ve been farm manager for almost 16 years now,” Waldner said.

He feels the significance of this role.

“It’s a lot of responsibility … it’s stressful out there,” Waldner said. “If, with Mother Nature, you’re fighting rain, you’re fighting drought.”

Vic Kleinsasser farms nearby. He’s a third-generation farmer of this land, which he’s worked for around 45 years.

“We enjoy what we do, and it’s been a good life for our family,” Kleinsasser said.

When KELOLAND News visited Waldner and Kleinsasser on Friday, each had farmland flooded by the James River.

“I hope not much more, but I guess we don’t know yet ’til all the snow’s melted to the north of us,” Kleinsasser said. “Hopefully in the next 40, 50 days that it goes down and dries out for us.”

“It’s been an early thaw, which we were lucky, it started right early, first off, actually late February started to thaw out, and hopefully it looks like, the forecast looks pretty good,” Waldner said.

2019 was a rough year along the James River.

“It was in this area, it was very wet and maybe cool and had a late, late planting,” Kleinsasser said.

“We need a good year to make up for the one we lost last year,” Waldner said. “It seems like, we got a good start, and we’ve got all the snow is gone, all the snow melt is gone.”

“We’re of course hoping for better things, hoping that it dries out and that we can get our crops planted in time,” Kleinsasser said.

As we talk about flooding and what the future holds, one word that each man uses is “hopefully”- that land can dry out and floodwaters can recede.

“It will in some places, hopefully, whether it does soon enough is yet to be seen,” Kleinsasser said.

“Hopefully we’re going to get that, get rid of some water here, get that water out of here, and then get nice, a nice dry April, and dry things out,” Waldner said.

“We always hope for the best, and it’s kind of out of our control, so we’re not going to worry about it,” Kleinsasser said.

Faith is a part of this equation, too.

“You got to depend on the good ol’ Lord,” Waldner said. “He always sticks up for you.”

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