By Jean Caspers-Simmet
DORCHESTER, Iowa — When the Upper Iowa River flooded June 8, it destroyed 150 acres of Jerry and Delbert Bulman’s corn and claimed five acres of land.
The water dug deep holes in their fields and deposited trees, sand, rock, LP tanks and even a deck from a house. Four-wire fences were covered with silt to the fourth wire.
A month later, a storm brought five inches of rain and flooded corn Jerry replanted for corn silage. If the field dries out enough, he’ll plant oats or rye grass and chop it for cattle feed.
There is now ten feet to 20 feet of deep swirling water where the river ate away the field. A strip of grass surrounded by the river is all that remains of the five acres the father and son lost during the flood.
The Bulmans raise corn, beans and hay and feed 500 head of cattle each year. They have 65 percent crop insurance coverage. Unless their entire farm yields less than 98 bushels on average they won’t collect anything. In addition to the bottom land, they have bench and ridge ground, and crops on the higher ground are doing well.
Jerry, his brother, Chris, and a contractor worked with two scrapers and four bulldozers for a week at a cost of $5,000 per day to repair the field damage. They bulldozed sand and silt and used it to fill holes and rebuild their levy. They removed 20 trees with roots from their fields. The July flood undid some of their work and continued to erode the damaged field.
"My dad, Delbert, is 82, and he’s seen a lot of floods, but he’s never seen anything with this much force," Jerry said. "He said 1941 was a bad flood but not as bad as this. Anyone between here and New Albin with bottom ground had to replant."
A filter strip along the river bank helped, but Jerry now thinks it should have been wider.
Jerry doesn’t know what to expect for next year’s crop with all the sand and silt. Last year, the Bulmans’ bottom ground yielded 236 bushels to the acre. They’ll deep till the ground in fall. Weed control is also a concern.
They reported their damage at $60,000, to the FarmService Agency but Jerry thinks it will be more like $100,000 to make things right.
"It’s like buying your land back," he said.
Terraces on his ridge ground were damaged during the June flood. He repaired them, and they were damaged again by the heavy rain in early July.
Jerry has a field across the Upper Iowa River, and he had his neighbor replant to soybeans. The bridge on Highway 76 is out so it would take him 40 minutes to get there with his equipment.