What we’ve lost

Louise Oleson, Editor
By the 1990s the Sletten farm had grown and prospered for 70 years in the Sletten name.

It’s all about flooding.

The International Red River Board is presently in the second day of a three-day meeting in Devils Lake to discuss the potential continued flooding.

Like the members of that body, hundreds of others have pondered the situation faced by the residents of the Devils Lake Basin. Hundreds of meetings have been held through the years. A flood summit, held in May this year, brought out an urgency to federal officials who are ill prepared for dealing with flooding that lasts 17 plus years without ceasing.

A result of all those meetings, countless telephone conference calls and the summit, President Barack Obama has ordered a commission to study the situation and come up with both short term and long term solutions.

Recently area officials traveled to Washington DC to add to the information these commission members had gathered in order to complete their report.

That report will be released on Monday, Sept. 20, and in spite of all the speculation, no one really knows, yet, what it contains.

Closer to home, the stories of those directly affected by this on-going flood may differ slightly but they end the same.

“What we once had, we’ve lost.”

How many beautiful, productive farms have been lost to Devils Lake flooding? That may not have been determined yet, but one farm lost is too many for an area dependent on agriculture.

Representing the many farms already lost to continuing flooding of Devils Lake and the Devils Lake Basin, the following is the Robert and Ramona Sletten story to remind us of the tragedy unfolding around us each and every day.

Here is Ramona’s story in her own words: “We moved on the farm in the fall of 1949 and as most older houses were, it was cold. We insulated it the next year and then it was very economical to heat. We added running water and a granary in the 1950s as there was no place to store grain.

Through the years eight grain bins and a grain drying system were put in. The house was remodeled, the kitchen enlarged, bathroom, an additional room and garage were added. A double car garage was built and the old barn torn down and a pole barn built. A quonset and pig barn were added. Robert, with the help of the kids, did almost all the carpenter work himself.

I can’t ever remember going out of the community to buy any of the items that were needed to do the work. Everything was purchased right here in Devils Lake.

Additional land was bought which doubled the size of the farm.

Our four children were educated and all graduated from Churchs Ferry School.  Then two graduated from NDSU, one from UND and one from Minot Business College.

Then the lake started coming closer and closer.

Eventually, we had to move into town and Nodak discontinued service about three years ago when a pole went down in the water. They didn’t even ask us if we wanted service, not understanding the inconvenience it has caused our renter and our son who likes to go out to keep the weeds down and do what needs to be done.

One of the reasons I am writing this is to let people know of the losses that are incurred by losing just one farmstead. Multiply that by the many farmsteads that have disappeared just around the Churchs Ferry area. This could happen all the way between here and Valley City and Fargo if there is no east end and controlled outlet.

There were many times we felt blessed with beautiful crops and that God had a hand in guiding and helping us to be able to inproved the farmstead. Its been heartbreaking to see the beautiful, productive land covered with water.

The fields and the roads that led to the wonderful place we still call home are gone.” -R.S.

By the 1990s the Sletten farm had grown and prospered for 70 years in the Sletten name.