TROMMALD — Residents with homes on Black Bear and Miller lakes near Trommald have watched the lakes rise, in some cases within a few feet of their homes.
The good news may be in the weather forecast.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Duluth is calling for a 20 percent chance of rain or isolated showers for the week ahead. A flood warning remains in effect, but the Mississippi River has leveled off and is expected to begin to fall during the next few days. Recent heavy rains, falling on already saturated soils, drained into the expanding river and caused lake levels to rise rapidly.
A prolonged period of high water is expected, the NWS reported.
At Black Bear and Miller lake areas, a single pump was moving thousands of gallons of water per minute from the lake side of the levee to the river. Normally, the lakes drain to the river through a 48-inch culvert and levee gate.
The levee was designed decades ago to keep the lake levels stabile. But after recent heavy rains, the river level was even higher than the rising lake water forcing the closure of the gate.
With rising lake waters threatening about 25 homes, the first pump was set up to reduce the pressure. A second pump arrived Friday morning, increasing the amount of water being pumped over the levee through long hoses to about 4,400 gallons per minute. Crow Wing County has been working with local fire departments and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at the levee. The second pump came from the DNR Forestry in Aitkin, where the river already crested.
“I think we’ll be in good shape if we don’t get any rain,” said John Bowen, Crow Wing County emergency management director.
Pat McDermot lives on Miller Lake Road and supervises the levee for the Black Bear Miller Lake Watershed Conservancy Board. Friday afternoon McDermot said the river went up an inch overnight and so did the inner pool from the lake side of the levee. Both Black Bear and Miller lakes are fed by tributaries.
“We are a long way from getting relieved other than the pumps taking enough water out of the lakes to stabilize it anyway because we can’t open the gates until the river falls below the lake,” McDermott said.
Crow Wing County has 10,000 sand bags waiting to be filled just in case they are needed. And for the homes by Black Bear and Miller lakes — along with one off Riverside Drive in Brainerd — wary eyes have been watching the swollen Mississippi River and lake levels. Currently an outbuilding for one home in the Black Bear\Miller Lake Road area is in jeopardy. Homes straddled the narrow stretch of land along Miller Lake Road between Black Bear and Miller lakes. Water levels have turned yards into pools or mud holes. Docks are swamped. Camp trailers are islands in flooded yards. The area was once home to a resort, which was sold off for homes in the 1950s.
Black Bear/Miller Lake levee, which controls localized flooding in Wolford Township, was constructed in 1987. The levee reduced the flood plain. A dam, which traced its origins back to the 1930s, was built to keep the lakes at a certain level as a tributary flows into the area to join the nearby Mississippi River.
Friday, the Mississippi River near Brainerd was at 14.4 feet. Flood stage is 13 feet. The river near Fort Ripley, which was still rising Friday, was at 11.6 feet, 1.6 feet above flood stage. At Aitkin, the river reached moderate flood stage just above 15 feet and was dropping Friday. Out of 100 total flood gauges in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Penninsula of Michigan, five were listed in flood stage, with three of those here in the lakes area.