By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN In preparation for the potential of high water this year, the City of Delano has identified 11 areas that may need temporary levees.
Levees built will be constructed to heights that will protect up to 3 feet higher than last year.
The temporary levee locations, as reviewed by the Delano City Council Tuesday night, include:
1) The west side of the Crow River, north of Bridge Avenue near Xcel Energy.
This levee will be the city’s tallest temporary levee and will be 5.5 feet tall.
2) River Street along the sidewalk in the area across from the Delano Post Office, north to Bridge Avenue.
3) River Street north of Bridge Avenue. This will be located on the sidewalk north toward the Granite Works building. Last year, the temporary levee was built up to Three Crows Café and Coffeehouse.
“We all know how close water got to that business,” City Engineer Vince Vander Top of Wenck Associates said, adding that it will not be possible to protect Three Crows this year as there won’t be room for the temporary levee at that point. The temporary levee will be built in front of Three Crows on the sidewalk.
Vander Top said these three steps were also the first three areas temporary levees were constructed last year. He said city staff would look at constructing the levee system when the river hits a level of 18 feet.
4) South River Street near Second Street South. Vander Top said, last year, the water came within inches of going over the curb and onto the street.
Because of the projections this year, when water levels hit 18 feet, city staff will construct a temporary levee along the river and across River Street toward the hill on the east side of the road, thus closing River Street.
Council Member Betsy Stolfa asked when the road may be closed, and Vander Top said instead of estimating by dates, it’s more accurate to estimate by river levels, and said this is something that will happen when water reaches the 18-foot mark.
5) Oak Avenue in the area of Wallace Street. A temporary levee would be set up on the western-most edge of Oak Avenue, like was done last year.
6) Closing the Bridge Avenue bridge and completing the temporary levee along River Street across Bridge Avenue.
7) Extending the levee from the Xcel Energy building, across Bridge Avenue, toward Delano Municipal Utilities.
8) In the area of the Granite Works building. Some sandbagging was done last year on the river side of the property, it was noted.
Vander Top said building a temporary levee between the building and the river is not feasible.
There is a high point north and west of the Granite Works building to which the temporary levee would be extended. Vander Top said the building itself will impede some of the water, but that it can’t be relied on as a complete solution.
9) Elm Avenue near River Street. In the event of a levee break, a temporary levee would be constructed in this area to prevent water from going into the downtown area. If the temporary levee in the downtown area were to fail, it would then serve in the opposite manner, preventing water from moving toward the park area.
10) Extending the levee through the compost pile to the wastewater treatment plant, across Wright County Road 17, which would close this road.
Vander Top said the center line of Wright County Road 17 is at 23 feet.
“If we see a ‘65 flood level, the water will be right to the top of the levee,” Vander Top said, adding that there is a level of concern about this area of the levee system.
11) North of the public works building by the wastewater treatment plant.
This would be a 200-foot levee and would be the last area the city would look at for building a levee.
“That would be our last area we’d build,” Vander Top said.
The area of protection has been broken into four geographic “quadrants,” including the west side of the river, the east side of the river, the downtown area, and the area near the public works facility.
If a levee failure were to happen in Delano
The council and city staff agree a “worst-case scenario” would be if the levee were to fail in any area.
Delano City Administrator Phil Kern said if there is a failure, it’s going to be “instantaneous.”
Council members questioned how the city can quickly alert people of a levee failure, should one occur.
Delano’s Public Safety Director Bob Van Lith said there is a program in place called “city watch” that can call landline phones and play a message in an emergency situation. He said the city will also be seeking cell phone numbers to add to that database.
Stolfa asked if it would be wise to sound the city’s emergency siren in the event of a levee failure, to which Van Lith replied people may not know what to do if they hear a siren or what it may mean.
Vander Top strongly advised not using the city’s emergency siren, because it is a natural reaction to go to a basement or low area when one hears a siren sounding.
A majority of the city’s levee system is at around 24 feet or higher. Vander Top said the levee in the area of the Granite Works building to the north is a little over 23 feet, and said there are “questionable areas” along there if river levels reach 24 feet, for which there is a 12 percent chance, according to the present forecast.
“The levees will really be under duress,” Vander Top said.
It was noted that, in 1965, there was no levee in place, and that the levee was built in the late-1960s prior to flooding that took place in 1969.
“The current levees have not been tested past 20.5,” Vander Top said.
The river crested last year March 21 at 20.30 feet, which is the third-highest crest since data has been maintained. The other historical crests were 23.25 feet in 1965, and 20.45 feet in 1969.
“Once the river starts flowing, we’re going to first have the ice issues, followed by the eventual crest,” Kern said. “Both could be significant.”
Sanitary sewer discussion takes place
The council also discussed at what river levels the city would recommend plugging sanitary sewers/drains, which could lead to potential evacuations.
Chuck Keyes, who operates the city’s wastewater treatment facility, said the facility was running at 80 percent capacity last year and said no sewer back-ups took place.
Vander Top said with higher river levels, it could potentially overwhelm the system and sewage could back up in drains or toilets.
City staff will recommend a plugging of the sanitary sewer system between 20-21 feet, particularly if the river is projected to go past 21.5 feet, Kern noted.
“That’s when we feel it’d be prudent to do that,” Vander Top said, admitting city officials have gone back and forth on what that recommended number should be.
The city also discussed providing residents a “voucher” that could be used to have a local plumber come in and plug the sewers/drains. At this point, the city advised residents in flood-prone areas to be prepared for the potential of not being able to use drains.
Anyone interested in volunteering should the need arise is asked to contact the Delano City Hall and provide contact information. City hall can be reached at (763) 972-0550.
“As we need volunteers, we’ll go down the list,” Kern said.
Preliminary sandbagging efforts took place Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with high school students being utilized for the work. It was the goal to get 8,000 to 10,000 sandbags filled last week.
Flood preparation odds and ends
In other flood-related items, the council:
• approved a resolution confirming the city’s emergency planning and declaring a state of emergency. It was noted this is entirely for FEMA purposes and for potential reimbursement of expenses from the federal government.
• approved a resolution regarding the city’s plan relative to sanitary sewer back-ups and plugging.
• approved an emergency sheltering “administrative procedures” document, which will be jointly-approved by the Delano School Board, to identify the arrangement and plans for short-term sheltering of displaced residents, if this happens.
• approved the hiring of Jeff Domjahn for a temporary public works position, effective immediately through May 1. Domjahn worked for the city in a temporary position in the winter last year, and worked through the high water in 2010.
Kern said Domjahn has institutional knowledge and allows the city to have another person to help with all the work that needs to be coordinated.
• approved a temporary removal of the city’s comp time accrual restriction (80 hours current limit) or overtime pay for staff for activities directly relating to a flood.
Updates throughout the week can be found online at www.delanoheraldjournal.com