River level falling, debris still a problem along St. Croix River in Stillwater
Flood warnings along the St. Croix River at Stillwater have been canceled, after the river dropped below flood stage over the weekend.
But while the river has now fallen more than two feet since its crest last week, there’s a long cleanup ahead.
Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski told MPR News on Monday that shoreline trees and branches downed by storms over the long, snowy winter are now drifting in the still-swollen river.
“It seemed like there wasn’t a block in Stillwater that didn’t have a tree down ... or a whole bunch of branches down.” Kozlowski said about the destruction of April winter storms. “So all of that stuff is in the river this year. There’s a lot more debris, you see it floating down the river way more. It’s already collecting in our parks way more than we're used to seeing.”
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Kozlowski said the temporary levee built to protect downtown Stillwater will remain in place for now. But if the river continues dropping, removal work could begin later this month.
“I’m still hoping for Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “The river is dropping faster than it’s been forecast to drop. So far it’s been pretty good news — every morning when I wake up and look at the hydrograph, it’s dropped a little bit further than they thought it would the night before.”
River levels across most of the state are dropping, though the water was still rising on Monday along the Red River near the Canadian border.
Evacuations still in place in La Crescent
In southeast Minnesota, the water levels along the Mississippi River are falling but about 100 residents in La Crescent will remain evacuated until early next week as the flooding recedes.
Mayor Mike Poellinger said Monday that this season’s flooding was the second worst the city has seen since 1965. And if water levels had risen a foot more, Poellinger said, there would’ve been damage to the rail line and more homes.
“We’re just hoping that the weather cooperates and we have what we would consider a minimal rainfall over the next 30 days so that we can get things to start to dry out, and not contribute to any more saturation of the road beds and and right-of-way areas,” he said.
For the now the water remains too high to start assessing damage, but Poellinger said crews should be able to start that process this weekend.
“At that time we’ll also assess any damage to private property and to right-of-way areas because the water was channeled through some of the right-of-way areas, causing erosion and other types of damage,” he said.
The city will also be assessing damage to sewer system pumps that were shut off as the water rose.
Upstream, the water level was also falling Monday along the Mississippi River in St. Paul.
City officials said they hope to start inspections of Warner and Shepard roads for flood damage this week, as well as getting pavement cleaned up, ahead of reopening the key connection along the river as soon as possible.