Living on the edge: Belfield resident losing backyard to accelerated erosion of riverBELFIELD — Jeanne Collum wakes up every day praying that the ground beneath her doesn’t cave in. The soil holding up her house and garage has been sliding slowly into the Heart River, and she fears her home will drop in like the trees around her have.
BELFIELD — Jeanne Collum wakes up every day praying that the ground beneath her doesn’t cave in. The soil holding up her house and garage has been sliding slowly into the Heart River, and she fears her home will drop in like the trees around her have.
“Most of my backyard is gone,” Collum said. “If we have another thaw like that, the house will be gone.”
Collum, 76, said her father built the house on Sixth Street Northeast in 1946. At the time, he had a garden across the creek. The family could get to the other side by walking on a wooden plant. When she was 18 years old, she moved out of the state.
The creek has turned into a river over time, slowly widening through the years. Collum said she moved back to Belfield to take care of a relative in 2000.
Flooding water in Collum’s neighborhood on Aug. 6 may have triggered the acceleration of erosion, she said. The water eventually ran into the Heart River.
“This was raging,” she said. “It was like a tsunami. Even my neighbors a block away had water in their yards.”
Collum added that the water-saturated soil in her backyard caused ground to collapse into the Heart River. Over the past four months, the river edge has crawled up to the corner of her garage and house.
“Big trees and everything just fell into the river,” she said. “Something absolutely triggered it.”
Eva Brimmer, who lives across the river from Collum, said the backyard is almost all gone.
“It’s a disaster,” Brimmer said. “I can see just how bad it is.”
Collum contacted relatives that are civil engineers, who told her she has to contact the mayor, Leo Schneider, to have the issue addressed. She said she left him several messages, but she never was called back.
Collum then contacted Bill Fahlsing, the Stark County Emergency manager, to find help. He said he contacted Russell Jordre, the Dickinson Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist.
“The only thing they could think of at the time would be to slope the bank,” she said.
Jordre addressed the Belfield City Council on Oct. 3, according to the city minutes. The council agreed unanimously to request assistance and sponsor an emergency watershed protection project that would acquire land rights, permits and review of repairing the creek banks to safeguard the banks from further erosion. The city may have to contribute of to 25 percent of the construction work to be determined in dollars or kind services. If the project cost is substantial, the city has the option to withdraw from it.
Belfield Mayor Leo Schneider said the council was waiting for a response from the NRCS. He added he has seen the creek by Collum’s house, but they had to wait for the review to be finished before taking action.
Schneider had no response on Collum’s phone calls to him except that the matter had been brought before the council and it was being taken care of by the NRCS.
Collum said she was told a survey report would be given to the city in January, but she said it may be too late.
“If we get a lot of snow and it happens again, I’m going to be floating down the river waving, ‘Bye, bye, Belfield,’” Collum said.
Jordre was not available for comment.