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Arena farm threatened with persistent flooding

ARENA (WKOW) — Despite this stretch of dry weather, Arena still has flooded streets and fields under six inches of water.

Local farmer Lester Baker said it’s been that way for the past three months. His home is surrounded with sandbags and has been constantly pumping water.

“Been doing that for three months 24 hours a day,” he said.

Keeping his home dry has become a full-time job.

“I had the one pump though going really good and everything was going and as the water kept progressing then I had to go to Dodgeville and buy another pump,” Baker said.

All of that water has to go somewhere and Baker said much of it has been collecting in his farm fields so instead of 42 acres of corn and soybeans, many of his fields are filled with ankle-deep water.

“Three years ago I could farm it all,” he said.

This year, even many of the acres he was able to plant flooded in the past few weeks as the water rose. In total, he said he was only able to harvest 570 bushels of soybeans the product of roughly 10 acres.

“You haven’t got a hope,” he said.

As for solutions, Baker believes the solution is already in place. He said FEMA dug a ditch through the village after the 2008 floods.

He said it allowed water to flow through the village for years but recently, parts of the haven’t been well-maintained have started to pool. At Wednesday’s Village Board meeting, Baker asked officials to clear it out.

“Nobody realizes how much water comes into this village,” he said.

The board discussed the option but didn’t make a final decision that night. Trustee Bill Hanson advocated for some action when they get a sense of what dredging could cost.

“The water can’t go anywhere,” he said. “It’s a basin.”

Baker said, he can’t wait much longer for a solution. If he has another harvest as disastrous as his past two, he said he doesn’t see a future with his farm afloat.

“Right now I’m probably under the most pressure than I’ve ever been in my lifetime,” he said.

While the Village Board postponed final decisions on mitigation efforts, they did decide to call a local disaster declaration after October’s flooding. That opens up more sources for aid but they’re hoping Arena can get help from the state for larger projects.

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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