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Washout has neighbors wondering

Courtesy photo The Little Missouri River south of Medora near Badlands Ministries has had a major washout occur over the last week, which has created a 100-yard channel in the river.

Following a spring of flooding, the Little Missouri River has decided to take an unexpected change of course.

An oxbow in the river on land owned by Harold Hugelen and Badlands Ministries has been cut off by erosion that has created a new about 100-yard channel in the river, Hugelen said.

The channel appears to have originated where the Southwest Water Pipeline crosses under the river, Hugelen said.

Hugelen said he thinks it's likely the spring flooding played a roll in the washout of the pipeline that led to the new channel in the river.

"Without the flooding there wouldn't have been an issue," Hugelen said. "And if it (the pipeline) would have had another five years to settle there probably wouldn't have been an issue."

Mary Massad, director of the Southwest Water Authority which oversees the pipeline, said in her opinion the pipeline didn't cause the problem.

"I would be real hesitant to say that's the cause," Massad said. "Rivers change course all the time."

Brent Seaks, director of Badlands Ministries, a bible camp located on the river, said he's concerned the new channel could put his camp at risk.

"I really don't know what the long-term ramifications are," Seaks said. "That's what interests me."

The North Dakota State Water Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers plans to examine the washout over the next few days, Billings County Emergency Manager Pat Rummel said.

Hugelen said he doesn't know what can be done, but he knows what he wants.

"I want my land back, I don't want monetary things," Hugelen said. "I need that land for my ranch."

Officials with the state water commission could not be reached for comment.