Dayton promises flooding help
“We’re here to pitch in and work with you,” Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said in Blue Earth last week Tuesday.
The governor, along with U.S. Representative Tim Walz, State Representative Bob Gunther, State Senator Julie Rosen and several other officials addressed the public, press and local officials at the Blue Earth Law Enforcement Center.
The main topic; what kind of state and federal assistance for flood damage and future flood mitigation will be available.
“I love spending time with the governor, but I know that when I spend the day with him touring my district, it means trouble, that there has been a disaster fire, tornado or flood,” Sen. Rosen told the group. “We don’t often ask for a lot, but when we do ask, it means we need help.”
And the governor and others promised as much help as they could muster.
Joe Kelly, the director of the Minnesota State Emergency Management Agency, outlined what the state can help with for local communities.
“Our goal is to get the areas affected by flooding back to normal as soon as possible,” Kelly said. “That will take a lot of work.”
Federal funding will be coming in a week and a half or so, he said. Now the work is to assess the damage and to get as much data gathered as possible.
Lisa Frommie, the Faribault County Emergency Management director, reported that there has been about $350,000 in damages to infrastructure reported in the county.
“We are very sure that figure is going to increase,” Frommie said. “After the water goes down and we can get a better idea of the extent of the damage.”
She also reported how they were able to get some voluntary cleanup groups to come to Blue Earth and help with cleaning up many of the flooded basements in the city.
Blue Earth mayor Rick Scholtes gave a thorough report about the failure of the city’s waste water treatment plant when it was unable to handle the overflow of water.
“The flow through the system went from 1,500 gallons per minute to 4,000 gallons per minute in just four minutes time,” Scholtes read from a report written by Public Works Department director Jamison Holland. “It overwhelmed the plant. Then the power went out minutes later and we lost the pumps.”
Homes on Fourth Street were flooding so the decision was made to bypass the plant and dump the water into the river.
City engineer Wes Brown reported there was damage to the wastewater treatment plant which is undergoing a $7.2 million remodeling. Kelly said repairing that damage could receive some assistance, especially if it includes ways to mitigate future incidents.
Mayor Scholtes reported that a couple of blown manholes in the low river bottom area had created the issue when floodwaters went into the manholes and then flooded the wastewater sewer system.
Also offering assistance, this time to area farmers with flooded fields, was Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture Dave Fredrickson.
“We are assessing that damage, too,” Frederickson said. “There are a lot of holes in the fields, either from water or other issues. the good news is, most farmers have crop insurance.”
Frederickson said they are getting an assessment for all the damage and their will be a disaster relief program. It will be in the form of zero percent loans, of up to $400,000.
Faribault County’s Frommie and Drainage Supervisor Merissa Lore reported on the flooding damage to a county ditch.
“It washed out, there was a lot of sloughing and erosion and it ate out lots of clay,” Lore said. “We can’t just put clay back in, we need to rip rap it to fix them or else it will all wash out again.”
Frederickson said that is part of the future flood mitigation and retention work that he wants to see done.
“I think it is time for a conversation, with farmers and their neighbors, as to what we can do with mitigation and retention to fix some of this flooding issue.”
Earlier in the day the group had toured Windom and Jackson.
Governor Dayton said it is difficult to see communities hit with flooding of the towns and basements, but he was encouraged by the way people respond to the emergencies.
“For our part, we will continue to provide as much assistance as we can,” Dayton said. He also gave local officials his home phone number and told them to call if they need more information.