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Downstream communities are beginning their planning for the possibility of flooding as the snow pack accumulates in the area. The Minnesota River flood crest in 1997 submerged a portion of downtown Granite Falls, shown here. Tribune file photo

Downstream cities begin flood prep

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West Central Tribune
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Downstream cities begin flood prep
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

MONTEVIDEO -- In answer to the question about ''where will all this snow go?'' -- downstream, and that has communities on the receiving end beginning to plan for the possibility of spring flooding.


Officials in Montevideo are meeting Thursday to discuss preparations, while their counterparts in Granite Falls will gather Friday. There is not a sense of alarm. Steps taken since the floods of 1997 have greatly reduced their exposure to flood damage.

And, the season's first flood projection by the National Weather Service on Jan. 27 advises that minor to moderate flooding is the most likely.

The city of Dawson on the Lac qui Parle River was among the hardest hit of communities in the flood of 1997.

City officials there are also planning to prepare for the possibility of flooding.

City Administrator Dave Bovee said the worries are not nearly as great as they were in 1997. He estimates that 90 percent of the properties that were impacted by the waters of 1997 have either been removed or are now better protected by an improved levee system.

Dawson just completed an estimated $4 million levee improvement. This winter, the aged-municipal dam was removed from the river as well, he said. More than 30 homes had also been removed from the floodplain in a successful program that saw all of the affected people stay in the community.

Montevideo has also greatly mitigated its flood risk. More than 130 homes -- including 100 in the Smith Addition -- have been removed from flood-prone areas.

Montevideo saw a record crest of 23.9 feet on the Minnesota River in 1997. Floodwaters above 18 feet will cause damage, and city officials are concerned about some areas. There are homeowners in the Smith Addition and the Gravel Road areas who declined flood buyouts and remain vulnerable to flooding.

There are commercial properties in the Smith Addition that could be vulnerable as well.

The city is undertaking a major levee project in partnership with the U.S. Corps of Engineers. This year's work calls for raising the U.S. Highway 212 levee.

Granite Falls has also been able to reduce its flood exposure by removing homes in both the Minnesota Avenue and 15th Avenue areas, where the greatest damage occurred in 1997.

City Manager Bill Lavin said the city still has areas of concern. Friday's meeting will look at what steps could be undertaken to protect homes south of the former City Hall along Prentice Street, he said.

Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335