The strain from expected heavy flooding this spring is already showing.
In the past 10 years, major floods have come more frequently and many communities along the Minnesota River have been gearing up for yet another one.
From Montevideo to Shakopee, officials are stockpiling hundreds of thousands of sandbags, making plans for temporary clay levees and planning with state and federal agencies.
Repetitive flooding brings the financial cost of reduced property values, lost revenue and the cost of preparation and cleanup. But the cost is also emotional as stress-related illnesses spike.
Mankato and North Mankato are spared much of that worry and cost thanks to the flood-control system. But other communities and rural residents face more problems.
New Ulm officials are facing tough issues and anger from some residents over flooding. The city has balked at building a temporary $350,000 clay berm to protect homes and buildings on low spots along the river, saying they don’t know how severe the flooding will be and noting the cost would have to be borne locally. That’s because the Federal Emergency Management Agency would not likely fund such a berm — as it did in the past — because public infrastructure has been improved in recent years and isn’t in danger from flooding. FEMA is reluctant to fund protection of private property.
It’s clear communities need to look for more permanent solutions for flood protection.
One of the best ways to prevent flood damage is to remove structures from flood-prone areas, where possible.
After severe floods in 1993 and 1997 hit parts of St. Peter and across the river in Le Sueur County, local governments joined FEMA’s flood buyout program with funding coming from a variety of sources.
Such buyouts can be contentious and costly. But they offer the most foolproof way of preventing flood damage.