September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

A lot of water in a little time

Farmers deal with the aftermath of over 11 inches of rain in three days
Water flooded part of Duschee Hills Dairy near Lanesboro, Minn. Although the herd of cows was able to be milked on time, the flood waters from June 22 and 23 left mud and debris to clean up, along with flooded fields. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED
Water flooded part of Duschee Hills Dairy near Lanesboro, Minn. Although the herd of cows was able to be milked on time, the flood waters from June 22 and 23 left mud and debris to clean up, along with flooded fields. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED

By by Kelli Boylen- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

NEW ALBIN, Iowa - Water flowed over the embankments of many creeks and rivers such as the Clear Creek as a result of excessive rain on June 22 and 23, which occurred in northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota.
Many farmers were affected by the flooding, including the Hartley family from New Albin, Iowa, and the Troendle family from Lanesboro, Minn. in Houston County.
Although their livestock and buildings are fine, the Hartley family of rural New Albin, Iowa, was hit hard by the flooding. Of their 200 acres of corn, 175 acres of it flooded. Siblings Mike, Mark and Brenda Hartley, along with their mother, Nancy, operate their 115-cow dairy farm on a homestead where there have been Hartleys for more than 100 years.
Their farm is located in the wide valley in the Upper Iowa River basin in northern Allamakee County. What usually looks like mile after mile of corn fields quickly turned into large lakes.
"They knew there was a chance of flash flooding that weekend, but they did not anticipate it would be as bad as it was," Mark said.
Clear Creek started backing up on June 22, but the Hartleys said it receded as the day went by. Then the massive rains arrived that night into Sunday morning and caused the Upper Iowa River, Clear Creek and other usually docile streams to rise to damaging levels. Some areas of Allamakee County received more than 11 inches of rain in less than three days.
During the early morning hours of June 23, the Hartleys could see how high the water was every time the lightning flashed, but there was absolutely nothing they could do about it.
Mark said the corn was about a foot high in most spots when the water started to rise. It was under three to four feet of moving water on Sunday, and several days afterwards. There was standing water in some of the fields almost a week after the flooding.
Across the border in Minnesota, Pat Troendle also had to deal with flooding at his family's farm, Duschee Hills Dairy, near Lanesboro, Minn. Troendle and his family run the 200-cow dairy, which sits in a valley along the Duschee Creek. The creek is an offshoot of the Root River, which flows about one-fourth of a mile from the farm.
"When the Root (River) gets backed up the Duschee (Creek) gets high," Troendle said.
Throughout the weekend, the farm received a total of about nine inches of rain.
"It wasn't a fact of high volume of rain ... Everything was so saturated. It had nowhere to go but run," Troendle said.
Although water was rising earlier in the weekend, Troendle said his family didn't have problems until Sunday morning. He received a call at 3 a.m. from his early-shift milkers because they couldn't get to the farm due to flooded roads. Troendle and his family had to take over the responsibility that morning and watched as the waters rose. The water rushed down the hills and came through the front of the farmsite. By 4 a.m. there was standing water in the machine shed and the level kept rising.
"I got the pallets of seed out of the machine shed. I got out what I could," Troendle said. "My father-in-law said this was the highest water level ever at the farm."
From there, Troendle said he and his family could only wait for the water to recede.
Although the rains did not disturb the milking routine and did not flood the parlor or the freestall barn, it did halt feeding the cows. Troendle said they distributed the square bales of hay left on the dry area near the barn until they were able to get the TMR to the herd. By 8 a.m., the cows were fed.
When the water did go down, Duschee Hills Dairy was left with a mess to clean up - downed fences, silt, mud and debris along with finding fish from the local flooded state fish hatchery down the road - and 40 acres of bottom ground washed out, but Troendle is still counting his blessings.
"We had just finally gotten that (40 acres) planted the week before, but that's what you live with when you have bottom ground. We didn't lose cattle, the cows were milked on time and everyone is safe, which is the most important part," Troendle said. "It's an unfortunate event, but not a catastrophe."
The Hartleys had one strip of alfalfa along the Clear Creek to help prevent runoff, which in a usual year is a good conservation method, Nancy said. This year the water was simply too high and too fast.
Mike had removed the bales of first crop hay from that strip of alfalfa just two days before the flood. Some direct seeded alfalfa was only about three inches high when the water came, and two weeks after the flooding Mark said that hay ground is done for this year.
They hope enough of the corn crop will be salvageable, but even two weeks after the flooding Mark said he could not even begin to estimate how much of the corn can possibly be salvaged, but he said it looks like they will be purchasing feed before winter. Some of the fields have crop insurance and the claims have been submitted.
Many farmers along the Upper Iowa River, Yellow River and Paint Creek in Northeast Iowa had a lot of debris to clean up and fences to repair. There were only one or two reports of dairy farms that had water in buildings. Many had to deal with water over roadways, bridges being washed out and large amounts of gravel washed away.
"After two weeks there are areas to be cleaned up and fences to fix, but we have to wait to do some of that until we find out more about the insurance claim," Mark said. "Most of the mess is fixable by using the tractor, but there is at least one area that will likely need an excavator."
"This flood was not quite as bad as the 2008 flood for how high the water got, but this inundation of water left more silt," Nancy said.
"This flooding left a bigger mess of trees, logs and rubbish to be cleaned up," Mark said.
And, as far as timing goes this flood was worse. In the 2008 flood they were able to replant their fields on June 8, and still have silage and even some corn to combine.
Whoever decided upon the location for the buildings on the Hartley farm had excellent foresight. Mark said with the different floods over the decades of their family being on that land, the water has not reached the barn and house.
"Pretty much all of the farms down here (in their valley) have their buildings high enough that you don't have to worry about them flooding," Mark said.
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