Duluth setting priorities for repairs

Published 11:15 am Wednesday, June 27, 2012

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — The city of Duluth is setting priorities as it begins to plan repairs to infrastructure that was heavily damaged by last week’s flooding, city officials said Monday.

Mayor Don Ness estimates that repairs to public property will cost from $50 million to $80 million. Ness said the city has identified 340 sites that need repair, mainly streets and storm-water sewers.

“That’s a real key for city staff right now is to make sure that the storm-water system that was so stressed by this storm, that we clear the materials out of there, so when we have the next rain event we don’t have additional damage,” Ness said.

Email newsletter signup

At the top of the repair list is the West Skyline Parkway, Public Works Director Jim Benning said. Washouts along the parkway have left some residents isolated. Benning said some of the bigger repair jobs will take months.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin assessing damage in the region Tuesday. FEMA officials will arrive in Duluth and hard-hit areas of Carlton County on Thursday, Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/MNqixi ) reported. And the state Department of Transportation and Homeland Security and Emergency Management officials are advising ahead of the FEMA visit.

In the meantime, city staffers are assessing damage to private property, said mayor spokeswoman Pakou Ly.

Ness said the extent of damage to private property is still unknown.

“We know there’s going to be additional need, that there will be private property damage that isn’t going to be covered by insurance companies or by FEMA,” the mayor said.

In Carlton County, nearly 800 homes have been damaged by floods, and about 100 are uninhabitable. As in Duluth, few property owners have flood insurance.

On Monday, Minnesota Power said floodwaters apparently have crested and water levels are starting to drop at its reservoirs along the St. Louis and Cloquet rivers in northeastern Minnesota. That should alleviate some of the flooding in low-level areas downstream from Island Lake, Boulder Lake, Whiteface, Fish Lake and Rice Lake reservoirs, according to the Duluth-based utility.

Since last week’s flood, Minnesota Power has been operating its Thomson, Scanlon, Knife Falls, Island Lake and Fond Du Lac dams under an emergency plan for high flows. Gates have been opened to allow for large volumes of water to move quickly through the watershed to ensure the dams’ integrity.

When the high-water flows decrease, the gates will be closed at the reservoirs, which will help alleviate flooding. The expected dry weather should help.