County to take a look at Reding’s flood plan

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 28, 2000

Former long-time state legislator Leo Reding won the Mower County Board of Commissioners’ endorsement for a flood-control measure.

Thursday, September 28, 2000

Former long-time state legislator Leo Reding won the Mower County Board of Commissioners’ endorsement for a flood-control measure.

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Reding appeared before the county board Tuesday morning to discuss a flood-control water retention plan he said works for him.

"If we’re smart enough to drain the land, we should be smart enough to control water drainage," Reding observed.

"If you pay $50,000 or $60,000 to buy a house and move it and you still have the problem of water flooding over the city land; that isn’t accomplishing much," he said.

Each time a flood event occurs in Austin – 1978’s twin 100-year floods, 1984, 1993 and this summer – the city’s reaction has been to acquire flooded homes and businesses in the flood plain.

The land is taken off the tax rolls and turned into public parks, but the flooding of the Cedar River, Dobbins Creek and Turtle Creek continues to wreak havoc in the city when flooding occurs. The July floods caused hundreds of thousands of damage in all of Mower County. Particularly hard hit was Austin, where three waterways flow through the city.

However, the damage to roads and bridges in rural townships was extensive. In addition, flood waters caused the county’s rich top soil to erode.

On rural property Reding owns, he constructed a water retention wall with a series of buffer dams that resulted in a 2-acre diameter, 3-foot-deep pond.

Reding proposed the county join with other government entities in a pilot project that the former legislator hopes will encourage the Minnesota Legislature to allocate money – possibly as much as $100,000 – to implement.

"Your chances are a lot better with a demonstration project to get any bonding money," said Reding, who was a state representative in District 27B for many years before retiring.

Reding said there is a "lot of support for this concept" from citizens who believe the previous flood mitigation efforts have been a misuse of tax dollars and one that hasn’t cured the flood problems. He even predicted that more unabated flooding could cause the "lowlanders" to take the "highlanders" to court, similar to the litigation that residents along Turtle Creek experienced when the watershed was drained and the creek bed widened.

"We don’t want that," Reding said. "Working together we can get so much more done."

Reding mentioned property acquired by the state Department of Natural Resources in Windom Township for the purpose of a wildlife management area. That’s where he would like the pilot flood control project to be located.

Reding asked for the Mower County Highway Department to perform some of the engineering work. Ray Tucker, Second District county commissioner and chairman of the board, suggested the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District also would like to be involved.

"With Dobbins Creek, Roberts Creek, Wolf Creek and the rest, you will have stopped a lot of water if you can control those waterways," Reding said.

Len Miller, Fourth District county commissioner, liked Reding’s idea.

"Should the city of Austin be asked to participate?" he questioned.

Reding said he has met with Jon W. Erichson, the city’s director of public works, but he believes the county’s townships and municipalities, as well as the city of Austin, should be asked to participate.

Flood control is only one benefit to be realized by building retention ponds in flood-vulnerable areas.

Reding also ticked off benefits such as protecting roads and bridges, creating small fish ponds and control manure or toxic waste spills as well as future groundwater regeneration.

Tucker, a tiling contractor, asked whether the expected U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ study would research a similar solution and Reding said the demonstration project and its resulting analysis could be done for less cost and faster than the Corps could guarantee.

Miller made the motion to approve the concept and proceed with an inclusive plan to involve other participating government entities and Richard P. Cummings, First District, seconded it. All five board members voted for the proposal.

Reding expressed his appreciation to the county commissioners and ended his presentation with some advice gained from years in the Minnesota Legislature.

"We need a real good plan and a real good program if we’re going to the Legislature with our request for bonding bill money, because everyone will be there asking for money, too," he said.