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Highway 81 Open Again, Sure to Stay Dry?

U.S. Highway 81 just south of Arlington is open again. After spending $8.3 million on what we’d hoped would be a $4-million project (but hey, they got done two weeks early!), the Department of Transportation says the raised road should keep drivers out of the raging waves of the Twin Lakes:

“The benefits of this project are that future rain events will not cause the water to over-top the road so that the road will not need to be closed,” the DOT said in a news release.

Wayne Lloyd, project manager for Prairie States Trucking Inc., said the road base is now above a 100-year flood event.

“…this is a permanent grade raise. The water will outlet to natural drainage two feet below the driving surface,” said DOT engineer Brad Tiede [Rae Yost, “Highway 81 Project Will Stop the Water, Officials Say,” KELO-TV, 2022.09.07].

This stretch of jacked-up Highway 81 sits at about 1,800 feet above sea level, so the melting of the Thwaites Glacier shouldn’t get the new road wet. But engineers have been dumping more rock and pavement on this Key Westian road since the wet early 1980s, and folks traveling from Madison to Brookings and Watertown have continued to encounter high water.

Hmmm… maybe in addition to piping water uphill from the Missouri, Madison (elevation 1,677′) should spend a little Biden Infrastructure money to pipe Twin Lakes water downhill for its industrial needs! A Twin Lakes water pipeline would top off the Madison city water supply and reduce the chance that we’ll be dumping another $10 million of rock onto the Great Wall of Kingsbury and Brookings Counties.


  1. John 2022-09-08 07:47

    SD DOT will not learn, just spend more of our money.
    SD DOT would not have these “flooding” problems, US12, US81, Lake Thompson grade, etc., if they built the roads OUT of the wetlands.
    Civil engineers OUGHT to know that increasing tile drains add more water to the lakes and wetlands so the waters and roadbeds are in a perpetual race that we pay for twice.

  2. flopster 2022-09-08 07:47

    Getting Twin Lakes water for city of Madison couldn’t be worse then what we use now. Recently relocating from a wonderful rural water access area, Madison water is awful.

  3. larry kurtz 2022-09-08 08:04

    A comprehensive study in 1969 published by Dr. Clyde Brashier of Dakota State University and T.W. Edminster of the United States Department of Agriculture was titled ”New Life for Prairie Lakes.” The opening sentence of the paper stated, “The inevitable end for prairie lakes is that of death.” It concluded that the southeast end of Lake Herman would be filled in by silt in 15-20 years, and the entire lake could be consumed by silt in 25-30 years.

    Jon Hunter

  4. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-08 18:08

    I have an old South Dakota Sportsman’s Atlas that shows Twin Lakes as very small, mostly slough. A later DeLorme has it as a small lake bordering nine different sloughs about one half mile from 81(it lists over a hundred fishing lakes, but not this Twin Lakes, it was too shallow and in winter probably froze to the bottom). The 1969 study didn’t anticipate the massive use of tiles in farm fields which dumps nutrient rich water, with pesticide and fertilizer residue, into the nearest ditch. Now we have lakes where there were no lakes, maybe a slough or a dry draw. I think they call them “non meandering waters”. Water flows down hill and these waters have meandered to the next low spot.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-09-08 18:36

    Arlo, I’d love to see those maps. Maybe we could assemble enough maps to create a flipbook or a video showing the progression of water boundaries over the years. It would also be cool to tag each of those years/frames with a number in the corner showing the total acres with drain tile installed.

  6. grudznick 2022-09-08 18:52

    Mr. H, if you allowed people to blog maps and pictures here that would be really neat-o. Then Mr. Blundt could show us these maps, and grudznick could blog up pictures of some really old maps I have too. We all like maps, as we are sensible map-loving gentlemen, as we should be.

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