The North Bend Eagle

 

 

Sandy field
Some ground, especially between the Platte River and Highway 30, looke more like a desert than farmground after the mid-March flood dropped tons of sand and silt on it.

NBC grad measures the flow of flood

Nathan Arneal
Published 4/24/19

They’ve become a common sight these past few weeks. Columns of gray smoke scattered at random through the Platte Valley, rising to the sky.

These smoke plumes are just another reminder that the spring of 2019 is not a normal one.

Sandy ditchReminders of the flood are still easty to find. This ditch along Highway 30 was the route the floodwater took into North Bend. It is currently completely filled with sand and silt.

Field debrisThis field near Woodland Cemetery has had the stalk debri brought in by the flood scraped off and piled along the edge.

Bad roadMany county roads like this one east of North Bend were beat up pretty badly by the floodwater, with all its gravel stripped away. Many farmers have volunteered their own equipment and time to get the roads at least passable.

Burning fieldMany farmers are burning the stalk debris where it sits in their fields.

Now a month after food waters have receded, many locals are still dealing with the aftermath, including farmers trying to prep their ground for the planting season.

The worst hit is ground between the Platte River and Highway 30. That’s where Ken Beebe lives about five miles east of North Bend.

He was out of town during the flood, but his basement took 10 inches of water while the surrounding farm ground caught tons of debris, silt and sand.

“I’ve told people that about everything they’ve seen on Facebook or the internet, we’ve got something that looks kind of like that,” Beebe said. “Whether it’s two feet of sand, or a two-foot gully or great big hole or a pivot tower sitting in a hole. It’s not a large percentage of our land base, but it’s going to be pretty tough going on that percentage.”

Beebe estimated there is about 100 acres covered in a thick layer of sand that they will not be able to farm at all this year. The spring winds blowing across the sand dumped there by the floodwater make it ripple like desert sand.

“In most cases, it’s just going to take dirt scrapers,” Beebe said.

More broadly, ground throughout the area has been deluged by debris, mostly cornstalks not only brought in by the main flood along the river, but by every little creek and ditch that was out of its banks.

Farmers are taking different approaches to dealing with the excess stalks and chaff. Some are burning the stalks where they lie then working them into the ground with discs or field cultivators.

Others are using field cultivators or box scrapers to rake the stalks into piles for burning, creating those columns of smoke. Still others, like Beebe, are using loaders to place the gathered stalks into manure spreaders to scatter evenly though the field and then working them into the ground.

Danny Ruzicka figured the Ruzicka operation had about 500 acres covered by floodwater from the Shell Creek, Maple Creek and Platte River.

Most of it, he said, should be plantable this year with some extra tilling passes.

“We’re going to try to get (the crop) in when we can get it in, I guess,” Ruzicka said. “Obviously, it’s not going to be done in 10 days like we can normally do. We’ll just work at it.”

Beebe is taking the same approach, even if some fields have to be planted in piecemeal fashion.

“I would expect us to be late in planting this spring,” he said. “There may be some areas we have to avoid the south part and farm the north part.”

Ruzicka said he knows of one piece of ground that won’t be workable this year, a 37-acre piece that was flooded by the Maple Creek. The ground utilized gravity irrigation, and deep channels and ruts cut by the floodwater make that impossible. There are also other pieces of ground that will need to be repaired after the growing season.

“It isn’t going to get fixed overnight,” Ruzicka said. “It’s going to be a year-long project. Hopefully we get time this fall to address some of the dirtwork that needs to be done, and we get a dry fall so we can put some of the dirt back where it needs to be.”

Many area pivots had gearboxes and motors underwater that will need to be inspected and repaired.

Beebe also had some pasture ground covered in sand.

“What we’re going to do on the pasture ground, I really don’t know,” he said. “We’ll have to see just how deep the (sand) coverage is and what comes through.”

Stalky ditch
Ditches like this one northeast of North Bend are coated with stalk debris brought in by high waters.

 

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