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Flood means Hein won't farm land again

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 11/04/2010 9:33 AM

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FARIBAULT, Minn. — "I won't farm this again," Bill Hein said, standingamid the destruction caused by Straight River floodwaters.

Six to 10 inches of rain or more across southern Minnesota Sept. 22-24sent rivers, ditches and creeks cascading over their banks, floodinghomes, businesses and fields.

At Hein's Straight River Farm, 2.5 acres of strawberries were underwaterfor two weeks. At its height, three feet of water covered the field.

The current was much too strong to cross for days, Hein said. Eight to 10days after the flooding started, they went down in a canoe. The StraightRiver is on one side of the field, and a backwater area on another.

"It was exciting when we got the canoe across because there was so muchcurrent," Hein said.

The raging floodwaters cut into the field, washing away a piece of ground80 feet across and 175 feet long. An irrigation pipe stretching into theriver was bent and rendered useless.

When the water receded, it left rocks of varying sizes packed between therows of strawberries at a depth of about six inches. There's dead trees,piles of gray beach-like sand and a soil washout.

On a neighbor's property, a foot of rock was deposited on land, he said.Hein's land flooded in 2004, but it was nothing compared to the flood of2010, he said.

"It's time for that to go back to a floodplain," Hein said.

He's hoping for assistance from the Soil and Water Conservation Districtor the Natural Resources Conservation Service to figure out what to dowith the flood-ravaged land.

Representatives from the two agencies toured the farm last week on a Rice

County Conservation Bus Tour.

Kelly Oliver, Rice County NRCS technician, encourages farmers to call theRice County Soil and Water Conservation District to report damages causedby flooding. Damage in the countryside counts toward the disaster amount,Oliver said.

They are gathering data, logging it and sending it in. There's been a lotof information about urban landowners needing to call and get on the log,but flood-impacted rural landowners need to do so as well, Oliver said.

She hopes people will call soon so they can log the damage before the snowcovers it.

Once the damage is documented, the next step is finding out what the

landowner wants to do.

"It's their land, it's their choice what they do, to a certain extent,"she said. What they are able to do depends on what the floodwaters leftbehind.

The flood disaster relief legislation passed by the Legislature last weekand signed by the governor provides $10 million for the Reinvest inMinnesota Reserve conservation easement program and $3 million to install,repair or rehabilitate erosion and sediment control projects in the21-county disaster area.

Rep. Patti Fritz, DFL-Faribault, who was on the tour, said she and Rep. KoryKath, DFL-Owatonna, requested $15 million in RIM funding in the floodrelief bill. Kath was lead author on the legislation and Fritz secondauthor. The governor's office had no RIM funding, but legislative leadersand the governor compromised at $10 million.

The RIM Reserve dollars will be used to acquire permanent easements fromwilling landowners to restore floodplains, riparian buffers and wetlandson marginal lands. The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources ispursuing federal funds for these easements.

Additional details will be announced as they become available, BWSR said.For now, producers should call their Soil and Water Conservation Districtoffice to report any flood-related damages.

Fritz said she'd share what she learned and saw on last week's tour withher collegues at the Capitol.