Saturday, March 28, 2009

From Humans to Livestock, Red River Flooding Impacts All

I usually write about the intersection between energy law and agricultural law, but this post has nothing to do with energy. As a professor at the University of North Dakota School of Law, I have been experiencing my first real flood threat in Grand Forks. Grand Forks had a catastrophic flood in 1997, and as a result, now has a dike system in place to help protect against future disasters.

Fargo and areas all the way up near Grand Forks that are not protected by the dikes, on the other hand, remain extremely vulnerable, and the efforts of the people in the region have been nothing short of amazing. And it is not just people who remain vulnerable.

Heavy overland flooding has caused significant problems for livestock, as well:

Brian Zimprich, extension agent for North Dakota’s Ransom County, said the county has suffered heavy overland flooding. That’s bad news for county residents, but even worse news for beef cattle producers, who are in the middle of calving.

“We have 50 head of cattle that have been lost due to flood, and there are various unofficial reports of livestock loss, rumored to have died due to flood or bad weather,” Zimprich said.

Seventy-five to 100 calves have been lost, many to pneumonia, he said.

“Some of them were newborns and some probably a week or 2 weeks old that have come down with pneumonia or illnesses due to the extreme temperature changes and the wet conditions,” he said. “It’s just not the best situation for calving right now.”

While the state has made clear that “[l]ivestock rescue and carcass recovery efforts are secondary to the protection of human life,” significant efforts are underway.

It will be at least a week before anyone can truly breathe easy, and even if major crisis is averted, significant losses have been suffered on farms and in the cities. Hopefully, the dikes will hold and the heroic efforts of people all over North Dakota and Minnesota, those suffering flooding on the other side of the Red River, will have minimized (though certainly not eliminated) the losses. No matter what, I have witnessed an incredible display of community spirit and dedication, and I'm proud to live to in North Dakota.


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