Tester Tours Flood Damage in Roundup


by Kyle Midura

ROUNDUP – Roundup residents continue to fight floodwater. The Musselshell River spilled over its banks for a second time in early June. The river there Friday night is about two feet above flood stage.

Montana's elected officials continue to push for federal aid to arrive on the ground as soon as possible. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) toured some of the damage Friday.

The devastation caused by continuous flooding in Musselshell County is clear from the ground and the air. But, residents of Roundup painted an even more dire picture at a public meeting with Sen. Tester.

"We got disasters going on after disasters in the middle of disasters," said one of Golden Valley County's commissioners. "We're putting band-aids over bullet holes right now," said Musselshell County D.E.S. Coordinator Jeff Gates.

The Musselshell river recently reached levels never recorded before, cresting at almost five feet above flood stage and stranding nearly 400 residents in Roundup's outlying areas.

County and city spokespeople say they're writing checks they can't afford and waiting for federal reimbursement that may not come.

Sen. Tester says he'll try and lift some of the red tape, but can't say when federal dollars will arrive, or how much may be available.

"We've still got dryland crops that haven't been seeded and won't be seeded," said the Golden Valley County Commissioner.

It's a similar scene across much of Southcentral and Southeastern Montana. More than 1.5 million acres, or about 2% of farmland statewide, is estimated to be affected by recent flooding, tornadoes, and hail.

Similar problems exist nationwide. The acting administrator for the Farm Service Agency says they've already received requests for help that total more than 700% of their allotted budget.

"Congress and the President agreed to 2011 budget levels that have reduced spending levels for our agencies," explained Bruce Nelson.

Federal aid for flooded farmers will likely be limited. Montana has secured an additional $600,000 from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. However, with such extensive damage, many say it's just a drop in the bucket.

"The Senate and House need to go out and assess what the damages are and make sure the dollars are adequate and appropriate," said Sen. Tester.

In the meantime, the Senator says Montanans will have to rely on the state's greatest strength: the generosity of their neighbors.