Flooding concerns draw Dayton to Mendota

Gov. Mark Dayton and Mendota Mayor Brian Mielke look over a map of the city as they discuss areas heavily affected by flooding. (Tim Faklis/Review staff)

Gov. Mark Dayton and Mendota Mayor Brian Mielke take questions and hear concerns from Dakota County residents worried about flooding, sewer failures and landslides. (Tim Faklis/Review staff)

Governor tours state to discuss record-setting rainfall aftermath

Issues with flooding have gotten bad in Minnesota. So bad, in fact, that Gov. Mark Dayton made his way all across the state last week touring rain-soaked communities, assessing damages and deciding which counties should be included in a State of Emergency declaration.

In the span of one day, he met with elected officials and policy-makers from Dakota, Wright, Carver and Scott counties to gauge the extent of needed repairs, meet with local emergency managers and discuss flood prevention and mitigation efforts.

His final stop on Tuesday, June 24, was in Mendota, located at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. The community is coping with myriad water-related issues resulting from June's heavy rains.

Unlike Dayton's other stops that day, which included Anoka and Belle Plaine, Mendota's tiny population put the town in a quite different situation.

"We operate at about a budget of $165,000. We prudently spend those dollars the best we can," Mendota Mayor Brian Mielke told Dayton.

"We have a small reserve for sewer issues, but certainly nothing certifiable that will come anywhere close to a long-term solution."

Mendota's population, according to Mielke, is at about 200 people with approximately 60 households. The town is one of the state's oldest permanent settlements and the site of the Henry Sibley House, which was built in the 1830s.

One unique issue Mendota has at the moment is the threat of mudslides and the effects they could have on a handful of homes. The concern is mainly for the homes on Lower D Street, below the river bluff.

Mendota resident Mark Proctor asserted that in Minnesota, insurance companies don't offer home insurance for any damage caused by landslides.

His comments were later clarified by a spokesperson from Dayton's office, who explained that there is nothing in the state commerce laws that prohibit mudslide insurance. Instead, he said, insurance companies in the area do simply not offer such coverage. While this leaves some hope for requiring the insurance industry to offer such protections in the future, it does not alleviate the concern of the homeowners on Lower D Street.

"I hope that the state can help us in some way," Proctor said. "I called my insurance agent Friday and found out that if the hill slides and destroys my home, no insurance policy covers it. Not only would I lose my home, but I'd lose my possessions."

Dayton took Proctor's phone number and said he would have someone from his staff contact him as soon as some research on the matter was completed.

In the meantime, Mendota city officials have asked three families to leave their homes due to the threat of a landslide. Heavy rains have weakened the river bluff and a deep fissure opened in the middle of Upper D Street, which is higher up the bluff. More rains could further erode the hillside.

Flooding is widespread

Throughout the trip, not only did Dayton give his input and discuss ways to access emergency aid, he also heard stories of flood relief efforts and expressed his gratitude towards the people of the flood-ravaged cities and the volunteers, who have spent countless hours sandbagging.

"The local responses have been just extraordinary," Dayton said. "All the training and everything they go through...the emergency management. Local efforts have been really extraordinary."

Flooding has been a widespread problem in the northern Dakota County suburbs, and has been a problem for more than a week.

Along with Mendota, there have been flooding reports in South St. Paul, West St. Paul, Mendota Heights and Inver Grove Heights. On June 19, there were more than a dozen calls requesting city assistance, due to sewers backing up in West St. Paul homes, where water flowed into basements.

This month's torrential rains caused the Mississippi River to flood underneath the Interstate 494 Wakota Bridge in South St. Paul and along the riverfront in Inver Grove Heights.

You can reach Tim Faklis at 651-748-7814, at tfaklis@lillienews.com, or on Twitter @tfaklisnews


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