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Flood damage could be in tens of millions


Mon, Jun 12th, 2000
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Monday, June 12, 2000

As clean-up activities from recent flooding take place throughout Fillmore County, city, township and county officials have been busy trying to assess the damages, which could be in excess of $10 million. Once this information is complete, an application for assistance can be made to the state. The state in turn could ask the federal government and the president to declare a disaster, thus making the area eligible for federal assistance.

According to Craig Strand from the Minnesota Division of Emergency Management the state is coordinating their efforts with the states of Iowa and Wisconsin, and that a joint application may be made to the federal government.

Some of the initial assessment includes significant damage to agricultural land, private property and government infrastructure.

Agriculture. It is estimated that 30% of all ag land in the county, 96,300 acres, was affected by flooding. The hardest hit areas were low lying fields in river valleys, where hundreds of acres may be damaged to the point where it may not be possible to farm that land again in the future. In addition, thousands of acres had significant erosion. Jerry Tesmer, Fillmore County Extension Educator, estimates that the economic loss to agriculture in terms of lost yield could be as much as five percent of total crop revenue, or approximately $5 million.

Roads. County Engineer Steven Voigt reported to the Fillmore County Board that no county bridges have suffered structural damage due to flooding, although several approaches to bridges and culverts have been washed out. Voigt said that the biggest lost that the county, and possibly townships, will incurr will be lost gravel. The engineer estimates that between 125,000 and 150,000 yards of gravel have been washed out of county roads. At $4 per yard, losses are between $500,000 and $750,000 to the county.

According to Voigt, one bridge in Amherst Township and one in Sumner Township have been closed, as have two bridges on County Road #8 between Good Earth Village and the town of Fillmore.

In addition to the immediate damages to county infrastructure, Voigt said that the county may continue to see the effects of this year's flooding affecting roads in the years to come.

Trails. Craig Bloomer, Area DNR Trails Manager, estimates damages to the Root River Trail system in excess of $100,000. Many approaches to bridges have been washed out and, in some cases, waters have eroded embankments near trails.

Cities and Townships. As of 3 p.m. Friday, June 9, 28 governmental units had reported damages in excess of $3.4 million to the Fillmore County Emergency Management Office.

Lanesboro Dam project. Bloomer also says that the DNR is evaluating the Lanesboro Dam project, where a parking lot and handicapped accessible pier are under construction. Bloomer estimates losses on the project due to flooding at between $15,000 and $20,000. He says that it is possible that the project will be re-designed, with the parking lot being moved closer to the hillside.

The controversial project was opposed by many residents who believed the project should not be built in a flood plain.

Whalan. Mayor Larry Johnson says that the town is vulnerable to future flooding due to damage done by the most recent flooding. While sandbagging prevented the flood waters from entering the town, the current from the Root River eroded much of the shoreline. Huge cottonwoods were taken out by the floodwaters and a road on the east edge of town was flooded. Johnson says that the DNR has looked at the shore erosion and believes that rip-rap will have to be put in place to protect existing embankements. Rip-rap comes at a cost of $2000 per 15' tall section. Do the math, and it would cost $200,000 to repair a 100 foot section of shoreline.

Fillmore Township. Township Clerk Sandy Hulbert reported that the township has received nearly a million dollars in damages from the recent flood. The township has three bridges closed and one culvert washed out. Campers that were parked at a park in the town of Fillmore were washed downstream. Approximately $30,000 worth of gravel have been washed from roads and deposited in farmers’ fields.

After the flooding, Hulbert found a new sink hole on her land, measuring 5’ X 10’ by 20’ deep.

Disaster Relief. Two charities have responded to the disaster. The American Red Cross has been working in Spring Valley since June 1. They have been providing clean-up supplies, and, in some cases, water heaters and essential furnishing such as beds.

The Jewish Disaster Response from the Twin Cities had two trailers operating out of Mabel. The charity provided cleaning supplies and were equipped with high pressure washers and shop vacs. They had crews assisting the elderly, the disabled and handicapped with cleaning their homes.

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