The following series of posts about flooding on the Yankton Sioux Reservation are coauthored and written with express permission of the Yankton Sioux Tribe.
The previous post about Lake Andes described the lake on the Yankton Sioux Reservation that has overtopped its banks over a state highway and has made access to the town of Lake Andes impassable from the east. Since the writing of that piece I am told that someone came out and dumped a bunch of sandbags…
There is a community just south and east of the center of Lake Andes that is referred to as “housing” or Indian Housing. These houses are administered by the Tribal Government through the Yankton Sioux Housing, administered by the US Federal Program: Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in a subset of grants/programs Public Indian Housing, Office of Native American Programs, Indian Housing (that is a mouthful). The houses in this development are divided into old housing (26 houses) and new housing (40 houses) with a total of 66 houses. According to the Yankton Sioux Tribe’s website, there are 252 units (http://dakota57380sd.tripod.com/ystha.html) under supervision on the reservation under this office, so this community represents more than 25% of the provided housing. While I am told that no houses have been built here in more than 25 years, houses are renovated from time to time, though many stand boarded up and empty and uninhabitable.
The houses are also located just shy of the approaching new south shore of Lake Andes. Getting to the housing posed a challenge, as the flooded road has cut off easy access from Lake Andes. “A woman drove her truck out in that water yesterday,” we were told. “She didn’t make it, and she ruined her engine.” The state highway is not only flooded, but given the state of the parallel bike path just crumbling under the rising lake waters, is most likely undercut and crumbling under that moving water.
|Bike Path from Housing to Lake Andes (uptown)|
|Flooded Highway 50/18/281 looking east and south|
First, our team decided to cross through the farmer’s fields between the highway and housing. We took our bicycles. As we cut through a tribal member’s yard, a man told us that no one was crossing that way in the last day or so because the ground was too wet. We decided to test it anyway. Within about 10 minutes it became clear we were not going to be able to cross the fields. Our bikes were cemented still by the mud which has a high clay content. Our shoes were caked in the dark stuff. We retreated to the road, dug the mud out of the fenders and wheels and headed back to town to ditch the bike idea.
|Outlet of aquaduct from Lake Andes|
|Pelicans flock around the lake outlet south of Lake Andes|
|Sump Pump and flood water pools in backyards|
|Rigged sump pump drain with PVC and gutter to the street|
|flooded basement with mushrooms growing|
“Everyone around here is sick. And we’ve been sick for more than a month. We think it is from what is coming up from the basements,” one resident said.
Another house we entered told us that they had mushrooms growing in their basement and when we entered the water was about 4 inches deep, even with the sump pump. One look outside at the sump pump destination told us why. The pipe was sticking out about two or three feet from the wall of the house, periodically throwing out heaps of water that created an enormous pool along the entire back of the house’s foundation. The pump was just recycling water from the basement to the backyard and to seep back in again.
|Sump pump drain only a few feet from the house, pooling along the foundation and most likely seeping back into the basement.|
Our guess is that this is groundwater connected with that approaching lakebed and nearby creek. Mold smattered the walls and floors and some of the possessions people left downstairs. Some of the residents are elderly and could not get the beds, bedding, blankets, and clothes out of the basement before everything was ruined with the flood water. One Elder couple put a bed in the basement on top of commodity cans. It at least kept the bed out of the water, but ultimately with the moisture that bed will need to be thrown away.
One resident said, “That water come up and I didn’t know it. My light doesn’t turn on from upstairs and I was just going down to do laundry and I stepped off that last step and was shocked to step into water!”
|Mold visible along the foundation walls and the windows of one basement, and in the house above.|
Another Elder said, “I don’t even go down there, I just keep the door closed. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t stand that smell!” Her basement had 1 to 3 inches of standing water even with the sump pump going.
Washers and dryers sat up on boards and were still being used in some cases. Things are soaked through and moldering including quilting supplies, regalia, photographs, family heirlooms, and other valuables.
We were told about the local BIA officer, one is assigned to live within each housing development, who had a whole living area built in his basement and when the flooding started, he moved out. “I think he lost everything down there.”
|Basement of an Elder with mold and flood waters, and sump pump active.|
Our last stop was the police station and community center where we saw sandbags scattered about, some broken open. We spoke to the man on staff who told us that about 5 inches of water had come in in March, flowing under the front door and seeping in through the gymnasium. They responded by sandbagging and using a pump to eliminate the water. Since then no more water had come in. The Pow-Wow grounds are inundated just on the other side of the road from the community center. The cook-houses sitting in about a foot of water, and the old commodities house sat in water.
|Cook houses out in the flood water.|
|Flooded pow-wow grounds|