Area cities fight flood, mudslide damage

As concerns over flooding have only worsened over the years statewide, city officials have ramped up their response. The key: figuring out how to block or divert the water before it rises.

Scott Thureen, Inver Grove Heights public works director, is among the numerous public employees across the state dealing with the cost of keeping the waters of the swollen Mississippi River at bay and the cleanup after it subsides.

He estimated costs of flood mitigation in Inver Grove Heights range from $65,000 to $70,000. Until the actual numbers come in, it’s unclear how much it will cost, or exactly how they will tackle flooding-related issues. For now, minor work, sandbagging and pumping are the temporary course of action.

“The city’s flood fight efforts at the river are complete, with the exception of some minor clean-up work,” Thureen  said. “I believe that they have all resumed normal operations.”

The city of Mendota, which recently received a visit from Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, faced a natural, weather-induced problem of a completely different variety. They experienced a mudslide June 16, along with a fissure in the road that, if it worsens, could cut off four homes in the town of just under 200 people.

“That’s the top concern for us, for obvious reasons,” said Mendota Mayor Brian Mielke. “The safety of those residents is important, so we’re working with (the Federal Emergency Management Agency).”

Mendota officials met with FEMA on Friday, July 11 to present their case. They’re expecting a response within the next four weeks. A presidential declaration would make them eligible for “FEMA Dollars.”

In the meantime, they’re exploring other options that could prevent future damage, including a complete fix of the cracked bluff area so that the same level of damage, according to Mielke, “would never happen again”.

That’s just one option among many that Mielke and the tiny city has to consider as the projected costs stack up.

“Mendota is a lower-income city, so we simply don’t have any room or budget for any significant repairs,” he said. “Even if it’s just bringing it back to the way it used to be.”

If the city isn’t eligible for FEMA, he said, it would then refer to the state government for assistance.

The city of South St. Paul is also working with FEMA, mainly for the work that they did on interstate 494 Wakota Bridge towards their area, building a fence-like area for its underpass to avoid flooding in both South St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights. That work, however, has mostly passed, according to public works director Patrick Dunn. 

Gov. Mark Dayton’s visit to Mendota to tackle these issues brought forth some positive views of the future, and a lot of that, according to Dayton, had to do with everyone else. During the trip, he told 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.”

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

 

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