Sen. Thune Surveys Larson's Landing Damage
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After surveying the flood damage Friday (Aug. 12) along the Missouri River at Larson’s Landing RV Park west of Yankton, S.D., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said the devastation breaks his heart, the Yankton Daily Press reported.
“It’s just more of the wreckage of the summer of 2011,” he said at the water’s edge. “It’s another example (in South Dakota) of a lot of people displaced and who have lost everything. We’re a tough people out here, and we get through a lot, but these people are going to have to dig really deep. We’ll work on what we can to help them.”
Larson’s Landing owner Doug Larson said about 18 mobile homes in the park are probably total losses and will have to be removed when the waters recede. With 150,000 cubic feet of water per second (cfs) still roaring through Gavins Point Dam, much of Larson’s Landing is still under water despite a wall of sandbags where the shore used to be located. Larson said the water level dropped about 16 inches when the releases at the dam were dropped from 160,000 cfs to 150,000 cfs.
He spoke with Thune about the possibility of getting a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan to rebuild his camp. He would like to have it operational by next spring.
“We’re seeing the water go down, which makes us feel a little better,” Larson said. “But you can’t do anything if you don’t have any cash. I’m not looking for anybody to give me anything. I just want to be able to get a SBA loan to get some cash and start rebuilding.”
In July, South Dakota was denied a request for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for Charles Mix, Clay, Day, Hamlin, Hand, Hughes, Kingsbury, Lyman, Stanley, Union and Yankton counties.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced this week that the state is appealing that decision in an attempt to get help for private property owners.
A presidential disaster declaration has already been announced for South Dakota because of flood damage to roads, bridges and other public infrastructure in 37 counties.
Thune said he finds it hard to believe the state wouldn’t qualify for individual assistance, as well.
“There are a lot of people up and down the Missouri River this year who have had similar experiences (to the Yankton area),” he stated. “I would think the cumulative effect of that would certainly make us eligible for the FEMA assistance that might be available. Hopefully, we’ll get back a different determination.”
The effort to press the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for answers about how the flood event transpired will continue, Thune said.
“In fairness to the Corps, it was an extraordinary event,” he said. “It was unprecedented in South Dakota. At the same time, we continue to ask questions about why they appear to be so slow in responding. The short amount of time that people had here to get ready and get these sandbags in place, it put an incredible burden on people.”
He will be part of an attempt to get Corps officials before Congress in the fall.
“I understand they have a tough job to do,” Thune said. “They’ve got a lot they have to balance. But their first priority has always got to be flood control and protecting public health and safety. This year was an extraordinary year for them. But when you’re in a wet cycle, it could happen again next year. We have to be prepared for that. We have to make sure we’re doing the necessary oversight to see the Corps is taking the appropriate steps to be prepared.”
Part of the conversation will be reevaluating the master manual the Corps uses to direct flows on the Missouri River, Thune said.
“I think the master manual is something we’re going to continue to discuss with them,” he stated. “I think we have to do that in order to do the due diligence for the people of South Dakota.”
For his part, Larson said he is looking forward to the waters receding so the cleanup process can begin at the camp.
“We’ve got a big mess here for a while,” he said. “It’s been a long summer and depressing as heck.”