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High water at Richland County line threatens farms, closes airport

RICHLAND COUNTY (WKOW) — Heavy rain came and went weeks ago, but near the Tri-County Airport, just north of Lone Rock, the water’s stuck around for more than a month.

Just two weeks ago, pilots at the airport were preparing their hangars for potential flooding. In the time since, the airport’s seen little change in scenery.

“It’s actually worse in certain places,” Ed Leineweber said.

Leineweber has been flying out of the Tri-County Airport for years, but he said for the past month and a half he’s been grounded by high water.

It’s closed the runways and left many airport buildings inaccessible.

On top of that, Leineweber says the water’s flooded his hangar twice so far this year.

“The loss this time in terms of property damage I think is less but the loss in terms of the use of the buildings and business, all that is likely to be much more prolonged,” he said.

The airport is not alone. The high water has flooded farm fields and roads throughout the same area. Nathan Burt said it’s only gotten this high once before, back in 2008.

“It looks like a stream is going through,” he said.

Just before the last big storm of the year, Burt said he noticed the water creeping over the road towards his farm field. He said he told his tenant and they raced to harvest.

“Where the semis were being loaded in the field the next day was underwater,” he said.

In the past week and a half, the Richland County Highway Department has tried to manage the water, digging a drainage ditch from the airport, through his property to a nearby creek. Burt said it’s helped his fields drain out but the high water has stuck around.

“We have noticed it flowing consistently, the culverts staying full since they’ve put them in but we’ve seen very little evidence the water is going away and going down,” he said.

Burt said the high water they saw last spring receded after about a month but with freezing temperatures fast approaching, he’s concerned his fields won’t get the chance to dry out before the next spring melt.

“We’ll have some decisions to make come spring,” he said.

Richland County’s highway commissioner, Roger Patrick, said the emergency ditch is only a temporary fix. He said he’s working with the emergency manager and airport commission to discuss permanent drainage plans but that will take county cooperation and more than $3 million.

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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