The last three weeks have been quite a bout. First the disastrous June 19 storms gave an uppercut to the region, and then area flooding delivered a body blow.
Fortunately, the last of the closed river crossings opened on July 7, after being closed for about 18 days.
Before memories of the event recede, like the waters of the Minnesota River, here are 10 thoughts.
- Bridge: The new flood-resistant County Road 101 bridge is looking pretty good about now. A few years ago, a study found that each day the roads are closed cost $670,000 in extra miles and lost time. Well, the days the Highway 41 river crossing alone was shut down just cost us close to $11 million. And that doesn’t include the impact to local businesses. Comparatively, the $54 million price tag for the bridge is a bargain.
- Communication: Getting word about the openings and closings of the river crossings from the government was spotty at best. MnDOT and Carver County (as well as Scott and Hennepin counties) need to up their game when it comes to immediately communicating closings and openings, and give us regular forecasts on when they think the roads will open and close. There’s no reason commuters should find out about a road closure after running into a road closed sign. There’s no reason downtown businesses should be in a limbo, wondering when they’ll get back their customers. That’s why government hires public affairs staff. That’s why the Internet exists. Get on it people.
- Public safety and public works: On June 21, the Chaska Fire Department saved a 14-year-old from the raging waters of West Chaska Creek. Our local firefighters can’t be thanked enough for their work. Meanwhile, public works crews throughout the area protected their cities from the Minnesota River and all the water that drains into the river. Then they cleaned up the mess, so we could get on with our lives with few hiccups. Great job! We hope the crews get some well-deserved R&R.
- Spring Creek: Few people can probably even name Spring Creek -- the normally docile brook that travels through the middle of Carver’s downtown. However, with the June 19 storms turned Spring Creek into whitewater rapids, tearing away at the levee that guards downtown from the creek (and the Minnesota River). Quick emergency work shored up the banks. But it was a close enough call to keep the potential need for a new Carver levee on the radar.
- Carver volunteers: Carver residents once again stepped up to the plate, watching the levee and filling sandbags. Meanwhile, S.M. Hentges & Sons, in Jordan, made quick emergency repairs to the failing Spring Creek levee. They’ve got strong backs in the Minnesota Valley.
- Athletic Park: Athletic Park, home of the Chaska Cubs, is a sore sight, following flooding. A small levee that would protect Athletic Park from Minnesota River floodwaters has been in limbo, awaiting federal approval. It wouldn’t have kept water off the field during this last flood, but it would with lower-water marks. Hopefully this will be the jolt needed to move this project forward. Meanwhile, remember to support the Cubs at their temporary home in Veteran’s Park.
- Shop local: Downtown businesses in Carver, Chaska and Shakopee took a hit while the roads were closed. Help them out and shop local.
- Brewery: Chaska resident Tim Roets was getting close to opening a microbrewery in Jordan’s historic brewery, before the rains and subsequent mudslide caused $7.5 million in damage to the building. The city of Chaska and the SouthWest Metro Chamber should extend a hand to Roets and try to find him a spot in town. Chaska has needed a brewery since it lost Beyrer Brewery 60 years ago. And perhaps Roets would want a shorter commute.
- Historic flood marker: The area needs to do a better job of displaying past high water marks. For its next public art project, the city of Chaska should create a marker in Winkel Park for the large crowds who walk the levee and check out the high water during every flood. (Following the devastating 1997 Red River flood, Grand Forks installed an obelisk next to the river marked with historic flood crests.) The marker would sit in the rising waters, offering comparisons to other bad floods and highlighting the importance of the city’s levee system.
- Flood of 1965: Next year, 2015, marks the 50th anniversary of the area’s disastrous 1965 flood. The April flood tore through a third of downtown Chaska and left an estimated 1,000 Chaska residents homeless. It also devastated Carver. Area cities, and Carver County, should make sure they commemorate the flood. In Chaska, building the historic flood marker would be a good start.