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What Matters Most: Lessons learned from starting over after a fire

It’s her wedding ring Jessie Halverson regrets about the aftermath of the fire that burned their house.

On March 6, 2021, Jessie and her husband James were fixing a well about half a mile from the house. Earlier in the day they’d gotten a call from family, asking if they were in the path of the fire that came across the scanner.

They thought the answer was no.

But when they got done fixing the well and came out of the canyon, they could see black smoke from the direction of their house.

“My husband and I raced home. We were starting to see flames coming up out of the canyon probably 300 yards west of our house. My husband got the kids, who were playing in the shop, while I went in the house, and started grabbing what I could think of.”

But when you’re in that situation, there’s not much you can think of, Jessie said.

“I’d thought of this process before. Fire is a reality.”

The Halversons’ house and shop after the fire burned through on March 6, 2021. Photo courtesy Jessie Halverson.
HalversonFire2

But in that moment, she grabbed the computers and hard drives, knowing she couldn’t replace the family photos. She grabbed her purse. After James got the kids–ages 13, 11 and 8 at the time–in the vehicle, he came in and grabbed guns and guitars.

“The wind was blowing so hard, it was hard to know how the fire was going to respond.”

James and Jessie were opening gates for livestock, and could see the smoke from their place. It wasn’t a surprise when Jessie got a call from a good friend, whose husband was a volunteer firefighter, telling Jessie, through tears, that their house was gone.

“My response was ‘it’s okay, it’s just stuff.’ I was so grateful to have my family, and nothing else mattered at that point in time.”

And she still feels that way. But she’s learned that some stuff does matter. Like her wedding ring, and her grandmother’s candy dish, the gun her dad built for her and the wrenches that wore calluses on her grandfather’s hands.

It’s been over a year since the Halversons learned they’d never walk through the door of their house again, but in many ways, they’re still sifting through the rubble.

Finding things of value

When the Fish Fire started last week, about 8 miles from their house, it all came billowing back.

The anxiety, the need to be better prepared, the fear that their family would have to go through–for a second time–something they never thought they’d go through once.

But the fire was contained, and the Halversons took the opportunity to sift through what they’ve learned. Jessie said she’s trying to figure out a snarl in their renters’ insurance. They owned the home that burned, and after a year, they had the insurance straightened out, but they aren’t ready to rebuild. So they’re renting from a neighbor, and just found out there’s an insurance map that won’t allow their company to offer renters’ insurance within a certain distance of a forest–like the Black Hills.

Jessie has a box of all the things that are irreplaceable–a much smaller box than it would have been before March 6, 2021–in the camper, ready to pull out of the yard in minutes.

Having been through the process, she knows to make lists of everything of value or importance, and to make sure the insurance company knows of everything on that list. Halversons learned the hard way that the insurance company has categories of items for replacement, like guns and jewelry. Each of those categories has a cap, if they aren’t itemized. She thinks they got $2,500 for all the guns that were lost, and similar for the jewelry.

Jessie recommends making another list, of the things that are most important, that you can grab in a minute, and taping it to the inside of a cupboard door, or a drawer, and making sure the whole family knows where it is.

Others who have been through fires have noted that not all “fireproof” safes, or gun safes are fireproof. Fires–especially housefires–can get hotter than many commercially-available safes can stand, so it’s best to take those items, or the whole safe, with you when you can.

The Halversons’ shop was still standing, but the contents were a total loss. Photo courtesy of Jessie Halverson.
HalversonFire3

Jessie stresses the importance of having an insurance agent you can ask questions of, and who will work for you and with you to keep your coverage current and adequate. Many people don’t adjust their coverage as they add value to their home or personal property, and the insurance agents don’t know to make those adjustments. Once a year, maybe when you’re changing smoke detector batteries, it’s a good idea to check on your list of personal property and update it, and submit it to your insurance agent. Most additions will cost a few dollars, if anything, but can make a difference when you’re trying to rebuild your life.

Jessie also stresses the importance of taking pictures of everything in your house and shop, including opening closets, cabinet doors and drawers.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” to try to make that list after a fire. It would be more manageable before a fire, but you always think it won’t happen to you, Jessie said.

Jessie has been keeping a spreadsheet as they get life back to normal, and she said it’s a struggle to even keep a year’s worth of possessions updated.

She also kept a notebook of all her “official” conversations in the months after the fire. “It’s such a brain buster,” Jessie said of all the paperwork and phone calls and meetings. She still has the notebook with dates and details. “It’s hard to remember everything.”

It’s easy to get caught up in regrets, but Jessie tries not to linger there. The one major regret she has is not waiting longer to remove the rubble of the house. It stood for more than a month after the fire, and they went through it to salvage what they could. Her two oldest boys wanted to go through it to see if they could find any “treasures”–belt buckles, toy tractors. There weren’t many. Her daughter, who was 8 at the time, didn’t want to go back. James and Jessie let the kids decide for themselves.

The one treasure Jessie wanted most to find was her wedding ring. They found James’s. Jessie’s was in a shot glass. She doesn’t know if the glass melted around it, or if the glass would have broken, or where the ring may have ended up in the chaos of a house fire. She wishes she would have asked someone if it would have melted completely, if it was worth looking harder for.

But at the end of the day, “It’s just stuff.” Her family is okay, and life carried on, with the kids in school, James at work and Jessie dedicating months to the details and paperwork of setting them up to rebuild.

But it still makes her sad that her grandmother’s glass candy dish, the one that was always filled with lemon drops, won’t be part of that new home. The gun her dad built for her won’t be passed down to another generation. The wrenches from her grandfather may have been buried in ash, but now they’re in a landfill.

“You have to remind yourself it was just stuff, but it’s okay to feel that loss. You have to go through that process,” Jessie said.  

How to help

Having good friends, the kind who come get your cows and feed them the day your place burns, or who take your kids to somewhere they feel safe, with people who love them, so you can take care of the immediate issues, or who bring you suppers for weeks, helps ease that loss.

“Those friends who jumped in without asking, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was hard to accept at the time–both James and I struggle with asking for, or accepting help–but I’m grateful for it now. But those friends who just come in and take control relieve so much burden.”

The other thing Jessie encourages when you’re not the one dealing with a loss, and you’re trying to be helpful, is to put yourself in that person’s situation. Regardless of the loss, they’re dealing with logistics, and lots of concerned friends and family, and their own grief. While everyone’s intentions are good, asking repeatedly what you can do to help, or making repeated attempts at contacting them, is sometimes more of a burden.

But at the same time, Jessie said one friend just checked in every day, and gave her a disinterested third party to vent to, so it all depends on relationships and reading the situation with empathy.

Halversons’ friends and family created a GoFundMe account, and hosted a benefit in Sundance. People James knew through his job at the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association donated a steer for a rollover auction. “We appreciated all of that so much. It was a tremendous help to get back on our feet,” Jessie said.

It wasn’t easy, but the experience drew them closer to each other as a family, and they learned to rely even more heavily on God. “I don’t know what we would have done without our faith,” Jessie said. “I often wonder how anyone gets through life without God.”

And last year, on her birthday, a little over a year after their fire, James gave Jessie a new wedding ring.

Some circles do go unbroken.

North Dakota cattle seized, sold due to neglect

The Rolette County, North Dakota, sheriff seized and eventually put up for sale over 700 head of cattle that the state vet’s office determined were not being properly cared for.

Nathan Gustafson, Rolette County sheriff said his office conducted a search of the property on June 23, 2022, which included a seizure under court order, with cooperation by Steven Nickelson, who was in possession of the cattle.

Two different anonymous tips reporting a number of dead cattle and a lack of feed prompted the initial visit. Following up on the tips, the sheriff’s office first visited the property on June 1, with Dr. Legassi, a local veterinarian approved by the state vet’s office to review the situation, said Gustafson.

Gustafson said the deputy discovered a large number of cows in comparison to the size of the pasture, a few dead cattle, very thin cows, and no feed available to the cattle at the time.

Because his staff are not animal health experts, and per state law, the sheriff requested a knowledgeable veterinarian accompany his deputy to assess the situation.

“We had a state-approved vet with us. We also had a brand inspector,” said Gustafson.

The vet determined the cattle were not being properly cared for and the small amount of hay, when available to the cows, was low in nutritional value.

The sheriff said after the initial assessment, per the vet’s recommendation, his office provided an order to Nickelson requiring him to improve the condition and well-being of the cattle by increasing the feed for the cattle, providing more nutritious feed, and/or moving them to pasture. Nickelson was instructed to provide information to the sheriff’s office regarding the size of the pastures, location of the pastures, and number of cattle he intended to ship to the pastures so that the sheriff’s office could contact the proper agency to help them determine if adequate feed would be available for the cattle in the pastures. The sheriff also instructed Nickelson to dispose of dead cattle as set forth in North Dakota law.

Gustafson said his deputies visited the property regularly to see if conditions had changed and did not see any improvement.

About three weeks after the initial judgment, the sheriff’s office spoke to a local judge and received a court order to seize the cattle because it was determined that conditions were worsening. Additionally, a few cattle had been moved but the sheriff’s office had not been provided with any information about the pastures the cattle were being moved to.

The court order provided Nickelson with two options. First, he could sign the cattle over to Rolette County – give up possession of them. The sheriff would take custody, pay the bills that were incurred (trucking, feedlot, auction market, etc) and the North Dakota brand inspection program, overseen by the the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association would determine ownership of the cattle and disperse funds as appropriate.

The second option required the cattle to be seized immediately and for criminal charges to be filed.

Nickelson chose the first option and at this time no charges have been filed.

The sheriff’s office, with advice from the local veterinarian, hired local hands to gather, pair, and ship the cattle to a feedlot to be cared for until they were in shape to be sold.

The hired cowboys and cowgirls who helped gather the cattle after the seizure later discovered that some of the cattle that were hauled to pasture were not paired up, and calves as young as a day or two old were shipped to pastures without their mothers, said the sheriff.

Gustafson said he was originally told there were about 500 head of cattle on the place, but they seized about 700 head, including about 200 baby calves.

Some of the cattle died in the feedlot, but the majority gained weight and were sold within about two weeks of the seizure.

“It was a sad ordeal all the way around,” said Gustafson. “People were mad at us until they either came in the yard or saw the condition of the cattle from the road,” said Gustafson.

“We aren’t bragging about this. If this never happens again in my time as sheriff, that would be awesome. It’s not something we want to do. But with the condition of the cattle, we felt we had to,” he said. “I can put myself in this guy’s shoes. His livelihood is being taken away. It’s a bad day. I can’t imagine, and I can really sympathize. But nobody put him in that spot, he went there on his own.”

After about $77,000 in bills were paid to cover trucking, feed, labor, etc, the remainder of the funds, around $600,000 were turned over to the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association who oversees the state brand inspection program, said the sheriff. The brand office will be responsible for determining ownership on the cattle and dispersing the funds to the rightful owners, including leinholders, if applicable.

In a Facebook post, the sheriff’s office indicated the owners of the cattle were identified as Steven Nickelson as well as Tanner and Cameron Millang.

Millang said the cattle were on his land at the time of the seizure. He said Nickelson asked for permission to move the cattle to Millang property after two severe April blizzards. The property Nickelson moved them from was extremely muddy, said Millang.

Nickelson could not be reached for comment.

North Dakota chief brand inspector Corby Ward said his office is in the process of determining ownership of the cattle. Nickelson did not rebrand the cattle, so ownership will need to be proven using bills of sale, auction market receipts, etc, said Ward.

In rare cases when the brand inspection program is unable to determine ownership on cattle or no rightful owner comes forward, funds are held in an estray account for 72 months, as per North Dakota Century Code.

After 72 months, if nobody proves ownership on estray livestock, funds are deposited in an estray account and may be used to help defray expenses for the brand inspection program.

TSLN spoke with Cameron Millang. He said he and his mother had leased about 100 cows to Nickelson starting in 2020. At some point between then and the time of the seizure, the lease turned into a “contract for deed” or “owner financed” agreement where Nickelson was making payments to own the cattle. Millang said Nickelson still owes six payments on the cattle so Millang still has a financial interest in the cattle. The new agreement was a “handshake deal” Millang said. He said a spokesman for the brand inspection program told him that because his brand is expired, it is not considered legal proof of ownership on the cattle. As of press time he had not received any payment for the seized cattle, he said.

Julie Ellingson, the Executive Vice President of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, the group that oversees the brand inspection prgram, explained the situation with the lapsed brand.

“By law, all brands had to be renewed by Dec. 31, 2020. After that time (Jan. 1, 2021), they were considered ‘expired.’ The brand is expired at that time, but state law provides for a one-year grace period, which allows the original brand owner more time before the brand can be registered by another. The grace period ended Dec. 31, 2021. After that, (in this case, Jan. 1, 2022), the brand cannot be renewed. The brand is then considered ‘lapsed.’ The former owner, however, can apply for it as a new brand. However, anyone else can too. After the renewal period and grace period have passed, the brand loses any grandfathered status and must be screened according to current recording requirements. Consequently, lapsed brands may or may not be available for registration. (4.1-73-15). Mr. Millang’s brand renewal application was received on June 27, 2022,” she said.

Gustafson appreciated Nickelson’s understanding throughout the ordeal. “He was as civil as he could be in this,” Gustafson said.

North Dakota State Veterinarian

North Dakota State Veterinarian Dr. Ethan Andress did not comment on this case or the condition of the cattle..

Dr. Andress said his office is careful to only approve vets for each situation that are knowledgeable about the species in question and who do not have a conflict of interest. The state veterinarian office pays the selected vet to make one visit and complete a report of the situation.

Andress said his office probably takes several calls per week from concerned individuals asking them to look into potential cattle neglect or abuse cases.

A few cases are severe enough to require a vet and the local law enforcement to work together to protect animals in unhealthy situations.

He said after following up, his veterinarians often need to educate the concerned party about normal production agriculture practices. Other times, the vet needs to educate the animal owner to help him or her understand how to better care for the animals in question. The main criteria he or his vets look for when making an animal welfare evaluation is: availability of feed, water and shelter. “After that, they are looking at body condition score, are the animals healthy, are they able to move around, etc.”

“Sometimes we get a call from a well-meaning individual asking if xx number of cattle is appropriate on xx number of acres. I tell them, it all depends on the situation – is it a feedlot? Is there feed, water and shelter? Do the animals look healthy? There is no one-size-fits-all standard. Each situation is unique,” he said. “It all depends on resources, manpower, and other things,” he said.

Seizure is a last resort option, said Andress. “The goal is not to take cattle. The goal is to help the industry do a good job of caring for animals. Our goal is never to prosecute. Our goal is to help animal owners make the best decisions for them and their livestock,” he said.

Cases like the Rolette one are rare, and would only happen when the situation is severe. Andress said that in recent years, the number of people who own livestock but don’t have adequate livestock knowledge has increased.

 

2022 Scholarship Winners Announced at AGJA Crossroads Classic

The future of the Gelbvieh breed looks brighter each and every year. This year, eight scholarships were awarded totaling $5,500 at the 2022 AGJA Crossroads Classic Awards Banquet held in Salina, Kansas July 8, 2022. Gabrielle Hammer, daughter of Lyle and Christy Hammer of Wallace, Kansas, was awarded the $1000 Earl Buss Memorial Scholarship as well as the $500 Mary Zillinger Cates Scholarship. Gabrielle currently attends Fort Hays State University majoring in Biology with the hopes of furthering her education applying for a doctorate in Physical. A 3.95 GPA student, Hammer has excelled over the years in the areas of leadership and citizenship through 4-H and the AGJA. Hammer has received a top 10 exhibitor title eight times in the AGJA.

Preston Dunn, son of Brian and Carolyn Dunn of Saint John, Kansas, was awarded the $1000 Leness Hall Memorial Scholarship. Dunn will be attending Kansas State University, majoring in Animal Science as well as Agricultural Economics. Dunn has gone above and beyond over the years, volunteering and leading activities with his local, regional, and state 4-H organizations, including teaching classes at state 4-H conferences. A member of National Honor Society, Kay Club, Student Council, and FCCLA (among others), Dunn exemplifies leadership and devotion to the development of himself through assisting others.

Scholarship winners (Left to Right) Lily Judd, Pomona, Kan.; Preston Dunn, St. John, Kan.; Gabrielle Hammer, Wallace, Kan.; Jaylea Pope, Ravenna, Neb.; Jaycie Forbes, De Smet, S.D.Not Pictured: Jayden Carrier, Hermosa, S.D.; Baxter Lowe, Adrian, Mo. AGA
Courtesy photo

Jayden Carrier, daughter of LeAnn Maude and the late Aaron Carrier of Hermosa, South Dakota, was awarded the $500 Rea Memorial Scholarship. Carrier will attend Casper Community College in Casper, Wyoming majoring in Forensic Science and work toward a Paralegal Certificate. Carrier was recently named a top four finalist for the first-ever AGJA Junior Breeder of The Year award. A 3.8 GPA student, Carrier was actively involved in Shooting Sports, Youth Group, Band, Theatre, and the Hill City Student Council.

Jayden Carrier, Hermosa, South Dakota, was awarded the $500 Rea Memorial Scholarship. Courtesy photo

Baxter Lowe, son of Raymond and Melissa Lowe of Adrian, Missouri, was awarded the $500 Patti Kendrick Memorial Scholarship. An Animal Science major at Fort Scott Community College, Lowe maintains a 3.7 GPA earning him a membership with Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. A 10-year member of the AGJA, Lowe accomplished multiple titles, including AGJA Ambassador, as well as earning the Champion Steer at the Junior National level.

Jaylea Pope, daughter of Jeff and Jeanne Pope of Ravenna, Nebraska, was awarded a $750 AGJA scholarship. Majoring in Agricultural Education with a minor in Animal Science, Pope will attend the University of Nebraska- Lincoln in the Fall. A current AGJA Board member, Pope, continues to excel within the association as a former Ambassador, two-time All-Around Exhibitor, and 2020 Premier Breeder as well as exhibiting multiple bred & owned champion entries.

Jaycie Forbes, daughter of Troy, and Pam Forbes of De Smet, South Dakota was awarded a $750 AGJA scholarship. Majoring in Agricultural Communications at South Dakota State University with a 3.5 GPA, Forbes continues to dedicate her time to the AGJA as the newly elected AGJA President. Actively involved in 4-H, FFA and her community, Forbes has a promising future in the beef industry.

Lily Judd, daughter of Nick and Ginger Judd of Pomona, Kansas, received a $500 AGJA scholarship. A hopeful sales manager for her home operation of Judd Ranch will attend Butler Community College majoring in Livestock Management and Merchandising. As a long-time member of 4-H and FFA, Judd also actively participated in multiple sports, National Honor Society and Phi Theta Kappa in High School.

The American Gelbvieh Junior Association is the junior division of the American Gelbvieh Association. The AGJA provides members up to 21 years of age the opportunity to participate in youth activities.

–American Gelbvieh Association

Keeping livestock watered: Peace of mind in the heat of summer

One of the worst things a stockman can find is a dry tank surrounded by bawling cattle in a hundred-degree heat. But there are some simple things that producers can do that might lessen this happening. Albert Keller, Northwest South Dakota water well contractor has some recommendations. “Having enough water storage is a huge thing. If you have a solar well, have three days of water in storage. The well needs to fill the storage tank before the drink tank.”

He suggested doing some simple checks on electric wells. “Open the electric box and make sure nothing has built a nest there. You wouldn’t believe how many I see that are full of mice or bugs. A little maintenance goes a long ways. Also make sure you have tight lids on top of well pits and the well head itself, a fence around those is huge so they can’t get rubbed off. I get calls that the lid on the pit blew off and they got six inches of rain and it shorted out the pressure switch.”

Making sure that cattle can’t get to your float in tanks is also important. “Floats need good protection, so they don’t get bent and not turn on. With windmills a couple times a year you need to check the oil in the head, grease them and check wear points. There are a lot of parts down the hole but often the typical failure is in surface parts that get neglected,” Keller said. “With solar panels, look at them if they are covered in bird crap, clean them off to get the most out of them.”

There are remote tank and well monitoring systems available now. Keller has worked with the Smart Water System. “It hooks up to the well and monitors the tank levels. You can turn the well on and off remotely through an app on your smart phone. The drawback is that this system must have internet access at the site.”

Lorentz Solar pumps have also developed a monitoring system that works off satellites and the pump can be controlled through a phone app. Real-time and stored data is available and the user can see the pump’s rpms, gallons per minute and according to Keller watch pretty much everything that is going on with the pump. He said both systems are close to the same cost and that if interested a producer should visit with their well contractor.

Keller said some of the power companies have services available so that producers can monitor the power usage and see if a pump is running or not. “You can just see if its running but not tank levels or if there are issues with the tank. Some do have a day or two lag time on their updates so having plenty of water storage is important.”

This is an example of a photo taken by a camera attached to a post. The camera owner can choose settings like 2 photos per day. The camera owner can also ask for an additional photo to be sent at any time. The camera (Barn Owl brand) uses a cell phone signal to send the images. Carrie Stadheim/BarnOwl
for Tri-State Livestock News

Franklin Electric on their solar units offer satellite monitoring, so that a user can see when the pump switches on and off. Valley Irrigation’s AgSense has an app available also, so that the pump is able to be operated remotely via a smart phone and their satellite system. “You can see what is going on at all times,” Keller said. “You can turn the pump on and off, see the output, everything.”

Aaron Berger, article “Checking Water from Afar” (for UNL Beef, June 1, 2020) describes several different monitoring options available, including remote solar powered cameras that operate off cell signal. The camera is programmed to take pictures of the tank at different times of the day and send the images to your cell phone, so if the water isn’t at the right level action can be taken immediately. Remote pipeline sensors can transmit pressure readings via cell signal to your phone, with a notification being sent if the pressure is outside the acceptable range. This technology can also be used to monitor wells, with a notification being sent if the electricity goes off, a float come off or a well break down. These sensors can also be used to monitor water levels in storage tanks.

Drones with cameras have become more affordable and can be used to check water in remote areas, this is helpful for regions with poor cell signal or difficult access. Drones are also handy to check windmills and give a bird’s eye view of the livestock.

“Having adequate water storage is the main thing, this gives you some time to fix a problem without it becoming an emergency,” Keller said.

 

SD Sheep Growers: Quality ewes in demand

To meet the needs of emerging demand within the sheep industry for superior young ewe genetics available in smaller lot sizes, South Dakota Sheep Growers Association (SDSGA), has hosted a Premium Yearling Ewe Sale the last five years. The most recent sale was July 23, 2022 at Magness Livestock Auction in Huron. This annual event is the signature yearling ewe sale in the region.

Sale summary: Consignors provided an excellent selection of high quality registerable and commercial ewes ranging from traditional white face wool breeds, their crosses and meat breed yearling ewes. Prices remained strong throughout the sale with considerable interest on all offerings. Lots were purchased by buyers from 4 states. The high selling registerable lot brought $600/hd for a pen of 5 hd, sold by Gerdes Hampshires and purchased by Keith Jibben of Big Stone City, SD. In the Commercial ewes, the high selling lot was 5 hd of fall born Polypay ewes offered by Shady Lane Farms and Nicole Jessen of Redfield, SD and purchased by John Callies of Howard, SD for $615/hd. The volume buyer of the sale was Bo Thorson from Towner, ND purchasing 80 ewes.

Sale Report

51 sheep producers registered to bid on 17 lots of yearling ewes totaling 575 head.

Gross receipts: $239,275

Average dollars per head: $416

Number of consignors: 15

Prior to the sale, SDSU Extension educational programming and lunch were held. A total of 52 sheep producers attended the programming and 107 people for the free lamb lunch.

It was also very successful day for 7 young sheep producers who were awarded the Youth Buyer Credit from SDSGA. All found sheep they liked and got them bought. The winners were John Callies, Amelia Crawford, Austin Crawford, Carly Crawford, Clay Crawford, Jayden Kott, and Marlena Retzlaff. Tommy Mills of Frannie, WY donated a yearling ewe for this year’s roll over auction to generate funds to support our Youth Buyer Credit Program. Generous donors raised $3,450 towards future winners.

SDSGA
Courtesy photo
SDSGA
Courtesy photo

To learn more about the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association contact Dr. Lisa Surber at 406-581-7772 or Lisa@sdsheepgrowers.org or visit www.sdsheepgrowers.org.

Save the date

The 2022 SDSGA annual convention will be Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2022 in Pierre, SD. To learn more, visit www.sdsheepgrowers.org.

 

The North Platte River – Multiuse Water

This will be a six-part series on the dams, reservoirs, power generation and some diversion dams located on the North Platte River. The series will follow a chronological order of the history and construction of these projects.

Figure 1 – TEACUP model graphic This “TEACUP” model graphic from the Bureau of Reclamation shows the dams and reservoirs on the North Platte River in Wyoming, their total capacities, current capacities, the inflows, and outflows. Courtesy image

When the Reclamation Act passed by Congress in 1902 and the United States Reclamation Service was created, studies were conducted to determine where water projects could be constructed. Initially, the Sweetwater River (Sweetwater Project) was considered to construct a dam at “Devils Gate” to provide irrigation water. However, insufficient flows in the river did not justify the construction of a dam. The Reclamation Service then determined that a dam would be constructed on the North Platte River in the Fremont Canyon approximately 47 miles southwest of Casper, Wyo.

The Sweetwater Project was renamed the North Platte Project, consisting of Pathfinder Dam, reservoir, and dike. The Pathfinder Dam was one of the first constructed by the U. S. Reclamation Service using granite blocks quarried near the dam construction site. Each block weighed 8 to 10 tons and moved into place using a series of cable ways and derricks. Construction took place from late fall, throughout the winter into early spring before the spring snowmelt runoff occurred. Wagon teams delivered construction material for the dam from Casper. Construction started in 1905 and was competed in 1909. The final dam construction method was an “Arch-and-Crown Cantilever Method” which serves to function as an arch and gravity dam. This method distributes the load between the vertical cantilevers and horizontal arches. The dam is 214 feet high and 432 feet from canyon wall to canyon wall.

Whalen Diversion Dam on the North Platte River, Goshen County, Wyo.

Current capacity of the Pathfinder Reservoir is approximately 1,070,000 acre-feet water. In 2012, a new ogee weir was constructed for the natural spillway overflow, replacing the old weir. This raised the level of the reservoir by approximately 2.4 feet to offset any sediment in the reservoir. This increased the reservoir’s capacity by approximately 54,000 acre-feet, 34,000 acre-feet went to the Platte River Recovery Cooperative Agreement Implementation Program. The remaining 20,000 acre-feet went to Wyoming. The State of Wyoming paid for the construction of the new weir. Both holders are junior water rights with a “change of use” to the 1904 water right.

The other part of the construction at the Pathfinder Dam site was the construction of the dike, which is just south of the dam, in a low natural depression. Construction started in 1910 and completed in 1911.

Several items of interest about Pathfinder Dam need to be addressed. The first occurred just after the dam was completed in 1909. Snow amounts in the mountains that fed the North Platte River indicated a runoff of a million acre-feet above average. The level in the reservoir rose four feet per day for several weeks. It was feared that the dike area would be washed out. Plans were made to dynamite the top forty feet of the newly constructed dam to prevent this. Dynamite was placed in the dam but was not used. In 1949 a regrouting project discovered the dynamite, it had not been removed after the 1909 incident. The dynamite was neutralized and removed.

During construction of the Pathfinder Dam, no deaths occurred. However, in 1912, five men were swept to their deaths falling into the canyon when anchor cables broke on the main cable way.

Guernsey Dam, reservoir, and power plant are the last on the North Platte River in Wyoming. Construction started in 1925 and completed in 1927. The diaphragm -type embankment dam is 135 feet high made up of clay, sand, and gravel with the slopes overlain with rock riprap. Original capacity of the reservoir was 73,810 acre-feet, but silt deposits have reduced the capacity to about 46,000 acre-feet. Guernsey Dam serves to regulate the flows for the other dams upstream. Capacity of the power plant is 6,400 kilowatts.

Pathfinder dam, reservoir, and new spillway ogee weir.

During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in conjunction with the National Park Service, and the State of Wyoming developed a master plan for local park developments. This master plan would serve as a general blueprint for development of other parks around lakes and reservoirs across the nation. Lake Guernsey State Park is the result of this master plan and a National Historic Landmark.

The Whalen Diversion Dam is located downstream approximately eight miles from Guernsey Dam. At this gravity, concrete ogee weir diversion dam, water is diverted to both the north and south sides of the river into two canal systems down the North Platte River valley in Wyoming and Nebraska. These two main line canals follow the contours of the valley to irrigate approximately 340,000 acres through a series of smaller canals and laterals.

The south canal, called the Goshen / Gering-Fort Laramie canal, comprised of two separate irrigation districts sharing the main canal. The Goshen Irrigation District is on the Wyoming side and the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation district is on the Nebraska side. The capacity of this main line canal is approximately 1450 cubic feet per second (cfs or “second feet”) and about 129 miles in length. Canal construction was from 1915 through 1924. This canal has three tunnels, which tunnel number 2 collapsed in 2019 during the critical period for crop water demand. (For more information on this see the series “Canal Irrigation, Canal Irrigation | CropWatch (unl.edu).

The north canal is the Interstate canal, now called the Pathfinder Canal. The capacity of the canal is approximately 2,100 cfs. The canal was constructed during 1905-1915 and is ninety-five miles long to the inland lakes. The “inland lakes” – Big Lake Alice, Little Lake Alice, Winters Creek Lake, and Lake Minatare serve as water storage for the 35-mile long High-Line canal and the 43-mile long Low-Line canal. These lakes are located northeast of Scottsbluff, Neb. The combined capacity of the lakes is approximately 73,000 acre-feet.

Pathfinder Dam spillway overflow when there was an excess of water.

–Nebraska Extension in the Panhandle

2022 Eminent Leaders in Agriculture, Family and Community Announced

Brookings, S.D. – The South Dakota State University colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and Education and Human Sciences are honoring three South Dakotans with the 2022 Eminent Leaders in Agriculture, Family and Community Award.

For nearly a century, this time-honored award recognizes South Dakotans for their contributions of leadership and service on the local, state, and national levels. The 2022 honorees are Walt Bones III, Chancellor; Delores Henderson, Sioux Falls and Bryan Jorgensen, Ideal.

“The Eminent awards help us recognize what is truly important,” said Paul Barnes, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences. “With everything going on in the world today, it is often easy to lose sight of the things that are really important. Community and family are among the most important things we can focus on.”

Established in 1927, the annual award formerly known as the Eminent Farmer/Rancher and Homemaker Award is a true South Dakota tradition with a legacy of more than 300 recipients.

SDSU selects individuals to honor based on confidential nominations. The nominations are reviewed and honorees are recommended by a committee of faculty members, administrators, SDSU Extension personnel and past award recipients. The honorees are approved by the deans of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and College of Education and Human Sciences.

The 2022 award recipients will be recognized during a recognition banquet held at McCrory Gardens Education and Visitor’s Center on the campus of SDSU September 16, 2022. During the banquet portraits of the award recipients are unveiled. These portraits will be displayed in a virtual gallery at sdstate.edu/eminent-leaders.

“This award is important because we have a number of really strong leaders in our industry who donate their time over the course of their careers and lives to better our state and the agriculture industry of our state,” said Joseph Cassady South Dakota Corn endowed dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “This award is one way we can take some time to recognize and show appreciation to those individuals who have gone above and beyond.”

To learn more about the award, ticketing information or to nominate an individual for the award, contact Angela Loftesness, Eminent Leaders in Agriculture, Family, and Community Chair, at angela.loftesness@sdstate.edu or 605-688-6732.

–SDSU Extension

Flood Communications buys KIMB-FM Radio in Kimball, Nebraska

NORFOLK, Neb., Aug. 1, 2022 – Flood Communications, which reaches more than 500,000 homes as the largest news operation in Nebraska, announced Monday it has acquired Kimball radio station KIMB-FM.

“We are excited to become a closer part of the Kimball community and be a resource to listeners and businesses in the panhandle,” Flood Communications CEO Andy Ruback said. “Kimball hasn’t had a dedicated radio station for some time, so it’s exciting to bring back local news coverage to this region of Nebraska.”

Flood Communications has seen significant success and popularity through its focus on serving rural areas and Hispanic communities. Providing local, trusted news to these audiences is essential in an era of misinformation, Ruback noted.

“We’ve always treasured the listenership and support from the Kimball area, and what better way to say ‘thank you’ than investing in a new radio station dedicated to Kimball, Pine Bluffs and Harrisburg,” Station Manager of Flood Communications – Western Nebraska, Hunter Arterburn said. “Adding the new KIMB-FM radio station allows us to expand our mission of promoting small-town communities across the area and across Nebraska with hyper-local news, sports and weather content.”

In addition to KIMB-FM, Flood Communications’ other recent acquisitions point to the media organization’s robust growth. In 2021, the company acquired five radio stations in the Grand Island-Hastings-Kearney area. Panhandle radio stations, KSID-FM and KSID-AM, and a western Nebraska news bureau, were added in Sidney in 2019. These moves and expansion of business in existing areas helped Flood Communications secure a place on the Inc. 5000 List of Fastest-Growing companies in America – the only broadcast company in the entire country to do so.

“We’re proud of our growth, but we’re even more proud to be a meaningful part of these Nebraska communities,” Ruback said. “Nebraska is a special place to be in this business – in fact, News Channel Nebraska is the only in-state, independent television network of its kind in America. This type of investment in hyper-local news, weather and live coverage of high school sports and other community events doesn’t happen everywhere.”

Following this acquisition, Flood Communications has a total of 23 broadcast stations, 16 radio stations and 7 television stations delivering content from border-to-border in Nebraska.

–Flood Communications

Cargill exec to keynote 2022 Women in Agribusiness Summit

TOPSFIELD, Mass., August 2, 2022 – Cargill executive, and the first woman to lead one of Cargill’s five global enterprises, Ruth Kimmelshue will be the keynote speaker at the 2022 Women in Agribusiness Summit, which will be held this year in Dallas, Texas, September 26-28, at the Hyatt Regency Dallas.

Kimmelshue, who is corporate senior vice president of Cargill Animal Nutrition and Health, will present on sustainability, using some of the innovative ways Cargill has embarked on this journey as illustrations of success. During her storied 20-year career with the company, Kimmelshue has assumed numerous leadership roles, and held positions in animal protein, salt, turkey and cooked meats, and agriculture supply chain.

A member of Cargill’s Executive Team since 2015, Kimmelshue most recently built and led Cargill’s global operations and supply chain organization and served as the company’s first-ever chief sustainability officer. In addition to sustainability and corporate responsibility, she also had accountability for Cargill’s research and development organization and the communications function.

Other speakers joining Kimmelshue at this fall’s Women in Agribusiness (WIA) Summit include:

Marco Orioli, vice president of Global Grain & Processing for EMEA at CHS, who will present The Human, Market and Business Impact of the War in Ukraine.

Cynthia Stanton, head of Supply Chain Operations with BASF, to discuss Managing Supply Chain Disruptions in Turbulent Times.

The annual Female Producer Panel will feature a group of young producers who will discuss the unique challenges and opportunities experienced by the younger generations. They are Sara Preston of Preston Farms; Kimberly Ratcliff of Farm to Freezer Meat Co.; Sadie Schweers of Schweers Farms; and Ellie Ann Vander Dussen of Standard Cattle LLC. This panel will be moderated by Megan Schilling, editor with Successful Farming.

Brooke Appleton VP, Public Policy, National Corn Growers Association, who will speak to the 2023 Farm Bill, highlighting the opportunities and challenges facing agriculture that could potentially affect the outcome of the legislation.

And, on a panel discussion about opportunities in U.S. versus Canadian agriculture will be Mary Robinson, president, Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and Rachel Pick, director of Programs and Operations, USFRA, along with moderator Mary Shelman, founder of The Mary Shelman Group.

See the full agenda, and register here (note that the price increases on August 6). For additional details about the 2022 Women in Agribusiness Summit, look to www.womeninag.com or email info@womeninag.com.

–Women in Agribusiness

NDSU Extension to Host Grant Writing Workshop

North Dakota State University Extension will host a two-part interactive Beginner’s Guide to Grant Writing workshop 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, Sept. 28 and Thursday, Oct. 20 at the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum in Bismarck.

The two-day workshop teaches grant writers of all skill levels how to prepare and submit a professional proposal. It is geared toward agricultural producers and those who work or volunteer for nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, community clubs, or local government units and departments. Participants will learn how to develop ideas for winning grant proposals, how to identify and work with funding sources, and advance their understanding of the proposal development, submission and review process. Professional review of a draft proposal is also included.

On Sept. 28 participants will come with an idea and leave with a proposal outline and all the resources needed to expand their outline into a full proposal. They will return on Oct. 20 with a draft proposal ready for a peer review.

“This is the first time this workshop has been offered in North Dakota,” says Lindy Berg, NDSU Extension agent in Towner County. “Feedback from participants who attended this training in other states indicates real results. Many received increased funding that allowed them to expand their facilities, purchase equipment and increase their services. We are excited to bring this valuable workshop to North Dakota.”

The cost to participate is $55, which includes lunch each day and all materials. The workshop has capacity for up to 20 people. Registration is required by Sept. 7. For more information or to register, visit ndsu.ag/grant-writing.

For more information, contact Kari Helgoe at 701-265-8411 or kari.l.helgoe@ndsu.edu.

–NDSU Extension