An eye on the river

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Meet John Beecher, who lives just south of Moorhead, Minnesota on the banks of the Red River. If he’s lucky, you’ll never hear of him again, because if you do, it means flooding has again threatened his home. He’s one of the people I’ll be following in the spring, should the region have flooding as severe as that in 2009, requiring the presence of News Cut to help tell you about it.

Mr. Beecher can tell you exactly how high the river behind his home of 26 years got that year. His wife put a Post-It note on the cupboard back then, and there it still sits.

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John’s house appears to sit closer to the river than people downstream who have more significant flooding, and yet — he points out — it only reached his bird-feeder in 2009.

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John is one of only three houses in what city slickers might consider the middle of nowhere. He’ll likely buy sand for sandbagging soon — unlike other communities, his township doesn’t provide sand for nothing — and hope some volunteers show up to help him out.

He admits he’s not getting any younger — he’s in his ’70s — and that thinking about what the river might do disrupts an otherwise fine winter.

He and his wife raised their kids here and it’s clear there are lots of memories in the house. But he quickly acknowledges he’d take any buyout offer that might someday come from some government somewhere. With just a hint that he might be steeling himself for the eventual decision, he says leaving the river wouldn’t be a big deal for him.

But he adds his wife has an entirely different view, not because she’s more sentimental, but “because it’s a perfectly fine house,” he says.

  • Rich S

    I would like to hear more about the costs of preparing for and dealing with the aftermath of the flooding. In this current political cycle of budget austerity, I would like the conversation to include; why do business’ and folks insist on locating on or near a flood plain. And more to the point, why do politicians continue to subsidize this behavior?

  • Bob Collins

    I’ve dealt with those questions many times of the last two years so I won’t bother going into detail, other than to point out that in many cases these people aren’t *in* flood plains.

    FEMA is redrawing the maps — has been for a couple of years — and changing the flood plain designations, but these homes have been here for decades.

    It’s only in the last few years that people are asking the “what’s wrong with these people” questions.

    Take Riverview Circle, for example. The homes were built there in 1979. The first 100 year flood was 1997. The second one was 2009.

    The best thing people can do to understand what “these people” are thinking, is to actually drive to the area and have a look. The answer is pretty obvious.

  • Rich S

    The area is beautiful and the sense of family and community is no doubt second to none. Although I’m quite sure that is similar to what the folks in New Orleans believe as well. As you correctly point out, not all folks are located near the flood plain. But there are many that are and many that do not take advantage of the buy out as your radio comments from that area yesterday illustrate.

  • Bob Collins

    That’s really the question I want to explore is the tug that keeps people — very FEW people in the big scheme of things — where they are.

    I can show you, for example, where there’s a whole street of empty lots except for one home. In that home lives an old man who lost his wife not long ago, as I understand it.

    What keeps him there? He’s an old man, #1 and starting over somewhere else means — #2 — leaving the one thing that still binds him to his wife, the home they shared.

    That’s powerful stuff to walk away from.

  • c

    //What keeps him there? He’s an old man, #1 and starting over somewhere else means — #2 — leaving the one thing that still binds him to his wife, the home they shared.

    That’s powerful stuff to walk away from.

    Posted by Bob Collins

    That was a powerful statement Bob.