Johnson: Building the road to recovery


Speakout

Over the last several weeks, South Dakota and our surrounding states have endured record level flooding. This has been a dire situation for the families and communities across the Midwest. 

Our state has barely begun to recover from dramatic flooding, and now we are seeing blizzard conditions in mid-April. More than a foot of snow on already saturated ground may only make matters worse for families already suffering from flood damage.

During my March work week in the state, I joined local officials to survey damaged areas in Sioux Falls and Yankton. Water levels were chest-deep at the YMCA Camp Leif Ericson office in Sioux Falls. In Yankton, miles of bike trail were destroyed. It will take years to repair some of this damage.

Commerce has been interrupted and livelihoods have been devastated. We’ve seen cattle killed and even worse, we have seen human life lost in the Midwest. A number of South Dakota communities have been tragically impacted, although perhaps none more dramatically than Indian Country.

Over the last few weeks I have been in continuous contact with President Julian Bear Runner of Pine Ridge, President Rodney Bordeaux of Rosebud and Chairman Harold Frazier of Cheyenne River. Their texts, phone calls and face-to-face meetings are heavy with frustration. Our tribal leaders are concerned about what’s going on and how it’s continued to impact people. 

Earlier this week, I met with Chairman Harold Frazier. He showed me picture after picture of the devastation in Cheyenne River. Cemeteries underwater. Roads underwater. Cars underwater. Although it’s never easy to ask for a helping hand, South Dakota is in desperate need of one.

And we’re not alone. 

I’ve spoken with several of my colleagues in Washington who have shown me photos of similar, and in some cases, more dramatic damage to homes and infrastructure to what we’ve witnessed in our home state. In Nebraska, entire homes were underwater. These stories I’ve pointed out are not meant to be discouraging. However, disaster aid discussions have been put on hold for another two weeks because of disagreements between political parties. 

I would ask my colleagues in the House, and in the Senate, to do everything they can to put politics aside and pass a disaster relief bill that can do much needed work for our country. Political theater will only cause further damage to the communities in need of our help. The time to act is now.

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