Sections

Weather Forecast

Close
Advertisement
A pontoon boat rests on a pile of flood debris in the St. Louis River near the Fond du Lac neighborhood in Duluth. Clint Austin | Forum Communications

Water levels dropping along St. Louis River system

Email Sign up for Breaking News Alerts
News Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
(218) 333-9819 customer support
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Water levels on the reservoir lakes north of Duluth that feed into the Cloquet and St. Louis rivers are finally starting to drop after last week's record rainfall.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Minnesota Power reported late Monday that the level of Fish, Boulder, Rice and Whiteface lakes dropped Monday and that Island Lake, which had been rising for days even after the rain, finally stabilized and is expected to begin falling soon.

"It looks like we've turned the corner," said Amy Rutledge, Minnesota Power spokeswoman.

Rutledge said most people expected Island Lake to begin dropping sooner but the amount of water flowing in from points north was still more than could be released by the dam, and the lake continued to rise even days after the rain stopped.

As the reservoirs begin to level off, Minnesota Power can begin to shut gates on the reservoir dams thus slowing the flow down the river system. That's good news for residents downstream, including along the swollen Cloquet River below Island Lake, especially in the Hunter and Bowman Lake areas that have been hard hit by rising water that's flooded homes.

Between 7 and 10 inches of rain fell across much of the region last Tuesday and Wednesday, including most of the St. Louis and Cloquet river watersheds north of Duluth.

The cresting of water levels upstream also is good news for hard-hit areas farther downstream. The Thomson Reservoir also showed a slight decline, the Duluth-based utility reported Monday, after spilling over its banks and causing massive flooding of homes in Thomson.

The torrent of water in the lower St. Louis River also has dropped some. After peaking at 55,000 cubic feet per second at the Fond du Lac Dam, the river's flow has dropped to 37,000 cfs, Rutledge said, which is still well above the river's emergency threshold of 25,000 cfs. The river there on average runs at about 2,000 to 5,000 cfs.

The lakes north of Duluth were made into reservoirs nearly a century ago to store water and regulate the flow along the St. Louis River to create steady hydroelectric power at the Fond du Lac, Thomson, Knife Falls and Scanlon dams downstream. While all of the dams on the system have held, the amount of water gushing through the system caused unparalleled flooding in many areas, from Island Lake to Fond du Lac, for many people who live close to the water.

FEMA arrives, but private property help uncertain

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is touring the Northland starting today to assess damage from last week's torrential rains and floods.

FEMA officials will be in Cook and Crow Wing counties today; in Lake and Aitkin counties Wednesday; St. Louis, Carlton and Pine counties Thursday and the Fond du Lac Reservation on Friday.

Kris Eide, Minnesota director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said federal officials waited until the water had receded and debris cleared away to allow them access to see the full extent of the damage across the region.

In addition to conducting their own tours, FEMA officials will count on the state Emergency Management office to assess the damage for an official federal disaster request to be made by the governor.

The early focus is on federal money to repair damage to public buildings, certain roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure as well as reimburse for debris removal and emergency response costs.

Earlier estimates had placed damage to public infrastructure in Duluth at between $50 million and $80 million, but Mayor Don Ness said that estimate now looks to have been on the conservative side, with true damages of $80 million or higher.

Duluth officials are still working to assess how much damage to private property occurred, with the Red Cross canvassing neighborhoods door-to-door Monday to help document private property damage.

Politicians to visit

State Rep. Carly Melin and Sen. Dave Tomassoni are sponsoring a town hall meeting at 3 p.m. today in the Fair Building on Main Street in Floodwood. The meeting is aimed at offering information to residents of southwestern St. Louis County, including Toivola-Meadowlands, on how to seek flood related assistance and for officials to get a better sense of the damage, especially in rural areas.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will travel to Superior this morning to get a first-hand look at the damage left by the rain and floods in Douglas County.

Walker will be joined by Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard, and U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy. The tour will include private homes and conclude at the Salvation Army.

Can't build

for 500-year flood

Some have questioned why so much damage has occurred from the floods spurred by 7-10 inches of rain in 24-hours.

But others, including Duluth Mayor Don Ness, have marveled at how much infrastructure remained intact. At a media briefing Monday, Jim Benning, Duluth's public works director, said there's no way to plan for an event that has a 0.20 percent chance of happening -- the cost would simply be prohibitive.

"The city's storm sewer system as it was previously designed served our community well for 120 years. You can't design for a 500-year flood event," Benning said, noting that even now the city will build as always for a 100-year flood, or a rain event that has about a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year.

Benning said the city has documented major structural damage to 140 different sites, as well as more than 200 areas of minor damage.

He said that in places, the city may need to make short-term interim fixes before tackling more comprehensive repairs.

Jay Cooke still closed, other parks affected

Severe flood damage to state Highway 210 will keep Jay Cooke State Park closed for the near future, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Monday. Highway 210 provides the only vehicle access to the park and remains impassable due to mudslides and large washed-out sections. Damage to the campground and park buildings was minimal but the park's iconic swinging bridge over the St. Louis River is severely damaged and the park has no water or sewer service.

Other Minnesota DNR sites affected by the flooding include:

E Savanna Portage State Park, where the park is open for day use, and the campground, guesthouse and camper cabin will reopen on June 28.

E Moose Lake State Park, where the Agate and Geological Center is open, and the campground has fully reopened.

E Willard Munger State Trail remains closed from Carlton to Duluth until further notice.

E The Soo Line and Blind Lake ATV trails in Aitkin County are closed until further notice, as are many other off-highway vehicle trails and public water accesses in the area.

All other Minnesota state parks along the North Shore -- including Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, Tettegouche State Park and five others -- are open.

In Wisconsin's Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the park's mainland trail -- from Meyers Beach past the sea caves, to the mainland campsite -- is closed due to washed-out bridges, erosion and muddy conditions.

Water levels on the reservoir lakes north of Duluth that feed into the Cloquet and St. Louis rivers are finally starting to drop after last week's record rainfall.

Minnesota Power reported late Monday that the level of Fish, Boulder, Rice and Whiteface lakes dropped Monday and that Island Lake, which had been rising for days even after the rain, finally stabilized and is expected to begin falling soon.

"It looks like we've turned the corner," said Amy Rutledge, Minnesota Power spokeswoman.

Rutledge said most people expected Island Lake to begin dropping sooner but the amount of water flowing in from points north was still more than could be released by the dam, and the lake continued to rise even days after the rain stopped.

As the reservoirs begin to level off, Minnesota Power can begin to shut gates on the reservoir dams thus slowing the flow down the river system. That's good news for residents downstream, including along the swollen Cloquet River below Island Lake, especially in the Hunter and Bowman Lake areas that have been hard hit by rising water that's flooded homes.

Between 7 and 10 inches of rain fell across much of the region last Tuesday and Wednesday, including most of the St. Louis and Cloquet river watersheds north of Duluth.

The cresting of water levels upstream also is good news for hard-hit areas farther downstream. The Thomson Reservoir also showed a slight decline, the Duluth-based utility reported Monday, after spilling over its banks and causing massive flooding of homes in Thomson.

The torrent of water in the lower St. Louis River also has dropped some. After peaking at 55,000 cubic feet per second at the Fond du Lac Dam, the river's flow has dropped to 37,000 cfs, Rutledge said, which is still well above the river's emergency threshold of 25,000 cfs. The river there on average runs at about 2,000 to 5,000 cfs.

The lakes north of Duluth were made into reservoirs nearly a century ago to store water and regulate the flow along the St. Louis River to create steady hydroelectric power at the Fond du Lac, Thomson, Knife Falls and Scanlon dams downstream. While all of the dams on the system have held, the amount of water gushing through the system caused unparalleled flooding in many areas, from Island Lake to Fond du Lac, for many people who live close to the water.

FEMA arrives, but private property help uncertain

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is touring the Northland starting today to assess damage from last week's torrential rains and floods.

FEMA officials will be in Cook and Crow Wing counties today; in Lake and Aitkin counties Wednesday; St. Louis, Carlton and Pine counties Thursday and the Fond du Lac Reservation on Friday.

Kris Eide, Minnesota director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said federal officials waited until the water had receded and debris cleared away to allow them access to see the full extent of the damage across the region.

In addition to conducting their own tours, FEMA officials will count on the state Emergency Management office to assess the damage for an official federal disaster request to be made by the governor.

The early focus is on federal money to repair damage to public buildings, certain roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure as well as reimburse for debris removal and emergency response costs.

Earlier estimates had placed damage to public infrastructure in Duluth at between $50 million and $80 million, but Mayor Don Ness said that estimate now looks to have been on the conservative side, with true damages of $80 million or higher.

Duluth officials are still working to assess how much damage to private property occurred, with the Red Cross canvassing neighborhoods door-to-door Monday to help document private property damage.

Politicians to visit

State Rep. Carly Melin and Sen. Dave Tomassoni are sponsoring a town hall meeting at 3 p.m. today in the Fair Building on Main Street in Floodwood. The meeting is aimed at offering information to residents of southwestern St. Louis County, including Toivola-Meadowlands, on how to seek flood related assistance and for officials to get a better sense of the damage, especially in rural areas.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will travel to Superior this morning to get a first-hand look at the damage left by the rain and floods in Douglas County.

Walker will be joined by Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard, and U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy. The tour will include private homes and conclude at the Salvation Army.

Can't build

for 500-year flood

Some have questioned why so much damage has occurred from the floods spurred by 7-10 inches of rain in 24-hours.

But others, including Duluth Mayor Don Ness, have marveled at how much infrastructure remained intact. At a media briefing Monday, Jim Benning, Duluth's public works director, said there's no way to plan for an event that has a 0.20 percent chance of happening -- the cost would simply be prohibitive.

"The city's storm sewer system as it was previously designed served our community well for 120 years. You can't design for a 500-year flood event," Benning said, noting that even now the city will build as always for a 100-year flood, or a rain event that has about a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year.

Benning said the city has documented major structural damage to 140 different sites, as well as more than 200 areas of minor damage.

He said that in places, the city may need to make short-term interim fixes before tackling more comprehensive repairs.

Jay Cooke still closed, other parks affected

Severe flood damage to state Highway 210 will keep Jay Cooke State Park closed for the near future, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Monday. Highway 210 provides the only vehicle access to the park and remains impassable due to mudslides and large washed-out sections. Damage to the campground and park buildings was minimal but the park's iconic swinging bridge over the St. Louis River is severely damaged and the park has no water or sewer service.

Other Minnesota DNR sites affected by the flooding include:

- Savanna Portage State Park, where the park is open for day use, and the campground, guesthouse and camper cabin will reopen on June 28.

- Moose Lake State Park, where the Agate and Geological Center is open, and the campground has fully reopened.

- Willard Munger State Trail remains closed from Carlton to Duluth until further notice.

- The Soo Line and Blind Lake ATV trails in Aitkin County are closed until further notice, as are many other off-highway vehicle trails and public water accesses in the area.

All other Minnesota state parks along the North Shore -- including Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, Tettegouche State Park and five others -- are open.

In Wisconsin's Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the park's mainland trail -- from Meyers Beach past the sea caves, to the mainland campsite -- is closed due to washed-out bridges, erosion and muddy conditions.

Advertisement
Pioneer staff reports
Advertisement
Advertisement