Gov. Kristi Noem saw for herself last month just what the people in and around Lake Andes are enduring with the flooding in the wake of the spring storms.
Now, it may be time for her to make a return visit.
Noem was one notable target in a press release fired off Monday by the Yankton Sioux Tribe (Inhanktonwan Nation). The release was filled with anger and frustration over flood assistance (or, from the tribe’s standpoint, the lack thereof) since the storms.
Those storms nearly doubled Lake Andes lake — from about 6,500 surface acres to an estimated 11,000 surface acres — and the high water has cut off roads and hit some tribal housing developments hard. People have been displaced while their homes are sitting in water and filling with mold.
But that was the situation in June. Two months later, little has apparently changed, despite assurances of help.
“The Inhanktonwan Nation has been waiting six months for the State to stop the flooding at Lake Andes and fix the blocked culvert,” the press release said. “Our community is literally drowning due to State negligence and indifference to the health and well-being of our people.”
The tribe is also displeased with the Department of Game, Fish and Parks for its alleged failure to address the flooding issues.
“This has developed into slow-motion tragedy for our people — one that was avoidable,” the press release said. “The flooding at Lake Andes is caused by the negligence of the state Game, Fish and Parks to maintain a key culvert that replaced the natural waterway from Lake Andes into the Missouri (River).”
The tribe claims that the “state has not responded” to its calls for evidence that the culvert in question shouldn’t be replaced and to hear what the long-term plan is.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Noem told the Press & Dakotan that the state plans to raise the grade of Highway 50/281 and to raise the grade on the secondary road running between the currently waterlogged tribal housing development and the highway.
The tribe, as well as all residents in and around Lake Andes, has been hearing promises and advice all summer from state and federal officials. Meanwhile, we’ve been hearing steady rumblings of frustration from the Andes area since spring.
What these people need to see is action, because right now, from their vantage point, they aren’t seeing it.
And that’s why it may be a good idea for Noem to return to Charles Mix County and see firsthand what has and/or hasn’t been done, to hear the grievances and to offer details of the state’s plans for the area.
More than that, it’s time for these two sides to get on the same page, which they apparently do not share at the present time.
Overall, the recovery efforts that have been seen throughout the region have been very good, as federal, state and local officials have grappled with the chaos left by the March bomb cyclone and the recurring storms thereafter to at least get life moving again.
But the Lake Andes area seems like an island in more ways than one. The flood waters linger, the damage remains and the hardships are apparently not receding.
Something’s not working there.
The governor should revisit this place and assess the situation for herself. And perhaps then, the path forward for the Lake Andes area will be clear to everyone with a stake in this mess.