River Finally Drops in Towner - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

River Finally Drops in Towner

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The Mouse River is hitting a milestone in Towner this week.

It's not a crest.

But rather, the river is expected to finally drop below moderate flood stage - something that's happened only once since early April.

Add it all up and it's almost four months of flood water on thousands of acres of farm and ranch land around Towner.

As Jim Olson reports, the result has been devastating for many who rely on the land for their living.

Jason Zahn has had lots of time this summer to make sure his hay hauling truck is in good shape. That's because he's been unable to cut any hay on his 13-hundred acres of meadows this year. It's all under the water of the Mouse River.

(Jason Zahn, Towner Area Rancher) "Every acre is under water. We've got three-four feet of water on every acre."

That means his hay truck could be pretty busy this fall and winter, bringing in the thousands of bales of hay needed to keep the herd healthy.

(Jason Zahn, Towner Area Rancher) "There's just so many decisions, what do you do? Where do you get your hay and how do you come up with enough feed stocks to keep the cows you've got."

His plan now is to try to get a few bales off some corn crop land but he figures there'll be a lot of hay being hauled in to the ranches around Towner.

(Jason Zahn, Towner Area Rancher) "It's been pretty tough on everybody."

Tough because these lands can only handle a small water flow after June First. Before then, the ranchers are happy to see water flooding the meadows - it leads to big hay crops. But when the water flow is so high that the river's out of its banks through July - like this year - all bets are off.

(Jason Zahn, Towner Area Rancher) "I think there will definitely be some herd reductions."

He expects many ranchers to be forced to downsize their herds. Especially since this is the second of the last three years where flooding has lingered well into summer.

(Jason Zahn, Towner Area Rancher) "You can go through one but when your have two - in 2011 - that puts a lot of financial strain on a lot of people around here."

And even with the water dropping now, the Towner-area ranchers have many questions.

(Jason Zahn, Towner Area Rancher) "How much of this land is going to be affected next year because it's been flooded two years, 2011 and 2013, so we're wondering how much of that grass is actually going to come back."

Questions like those make for an uncertain fall and winter ahead in an area that's had flooding going on since April. Near Towner, Jim Olson, KX News.


Tomorrow, we'll look at another location that's been dealing with high water for months - the Salyer National Wildlife Refuge near Upham.

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