Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
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CLARA CITY -- A telling silence greeted Superintendent of Schools Greg Schmidt and school board member Tim Smith on Thursday evening in Clara City. No one from the public came to register an opinion on the four-day school week the MACCRAY School District has implemented for nearly three years running. The district will be seeking to continue the practice for the next three years, but must obtain approval from the Minnesota Department of Education to do so. Part of the requirement is to hold public hearings on it, said Schmidt.
There are plenty of independent contractors and businesses operating in the rural counties of the Upper Minnesota River Valley, but they rarely get a shot at the big projects, even those that happen close to home. Many lack the resources to deal with the paperwork, bureaucracy or bonding requirements that come with big, public projects.
MONTEVIDEO -- As floodwaters in the upper Minnesota River basin recede, the affected counties and cities are beginning to assess the damage left behind. Preliminary, admittedly rough assessments indicate that Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine counties will qualify for emergency disaster aid, if the president declares the state a disaster area. A presidential declaration would mean that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would cover 75 percent of the reported damages. Montevideo has been the hardest hit by the flood of 2011.
The Minnesota River has fallen from its crest of 19.84 feet one week ago in Montevideo -- 5.84 feet above flood stage -- to 18.35 feet on Wednesday afternoon. The river needs to drop to about 17 feet before the city can restore sanitary sewer services to the Smith Addition. Based on current projections by the National Weather Service, that could happen sometime on Sunday, said City Manager Steve Jones. Floodwaters in Granite Falls had dropped to 891.5 feet, or 3.5 feet above flood level, on Wednesday. The river had crested last Thursday at 893.01 feet.
KANDIYOHI -- What was once the heart of the commercial district in the city of Kandiyohi will be a vacant lot by the end of the week. Workers with Chad Monson Excavating of Willmar and MACC Inc.
SPICER -- We'll soon be learning whether some area lakes suffered winter fish kills. Fisheries workers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Spicer will begin assessing some of the shallow lakes in the region this week. There are 10, possibly a dozen lakes that they intend to assess at some point this spring, said Dave Coahran, acting fisheries supervisor. Area lakes were under a heavy blanket of snow for an extended period of time this winter.
MONTEVIDEO -- The Minnesota River is starting to recede after reaching new, second crests in Montevideo and Granite Falls. The river reached its second crest of the spring season on Thursday. In Montevideo, the river was reported at 19.86 feet on Thursday, and was expected to come down to 19.7 feet today.
As faithful as a monk called to prayers, Jim Gilley has made the walk down from his house on the hill to the Smith Addition in Montevideo every day for the last few weeks to watch the waters rise. Thursday he may have seen their peak. "This year it seems like we're avoiding any serious damage,'' said Gilley, as he stopped to chat. "Let's just really hope,'' said Montevideo Mayor Debra Lee Fader when she hesitantly expressed the same thought to a reporter later in the day.
MONTEVIDEO -- The Minnesota River is rising towards its expected crests in Montevideo and Granite Falls. The river had reached 19.66 feet in Montevideo this morning, or 5.66 feet above flood stage. It is expected to reach a crest of 20 feet tonight, which is very similar to last year's crest of 20.09 feet. The river reached 892.65 feet in Granite Falls this morning, or 4.65 feet above flood stage. The Weather Service is predicting a crest of 892.9 feet on Friday morning, which would be lower than last year's crest. Additional precipitation could bump the projected crests upward.
MONTEVIDEO -- As had been expected, the city of Montevideo shut off sanitary sewer services to homes in the Smith Addition on Tuesday as the Minnesota River rose towards a second crest. The National Weather Service is predicting the river will reach a 20-foot crest today in Monte -video. The river reached 19 feet on Tuesday, the level at which the city needed to shut off sanitary sewer service to the Smith Addition and Forest Avenue. The city is not requiring residents to leave the affected areas, and most are remaining.