BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN The South Fork of the Crow River has receded below flood stage, but not before cresting Aug. 21 at 17.75 feet, Delano’s highest watermark in August, and the 14th highest watermark overall, according to records dating back to 1965.
Though it was a far cry from the historic crest of 23.25 feet April 14, 1965, or the more recent crest of 21.02 feet June 24, 2014, the high water provided a test of recent infrastructure improvements.
“We were trilled with how the infrastructure improvements that have been made worked,” City Administrator Phil Kern said. “Normally, in the event of a crest of 17.75 feet, we’d have around 10 pumps working across the city. This time, we had two, which cut down dramatically on our costs in terms of equipment, wear and tear, gas, and staffing. We didn’t have to staff pumps 24/7, which gets to be very costly to the city during flood events. It was very positive.”
One of the improvements impacts properties between Buffalo Street and Highway 12. When the river reaches 17 feet, water flows through the storm sewer system to a pumping station across from Peppermint Twist.
North of there, by North River Street and Central Park, water also peaks at 17 feet before flowing into a storm sewer by the park.
“That worked perfectly, as well,” Kern said. “We really have minimized our need for flood response on both sides of the river.”
That doesn’t mean there’s not still more work to be done.
“We still have an area of concern on River Street south of the railroad bridge that we’ll be talking to the city council about before the next flood,” Kern said.
According to the National Weather Service, basement flooding may begin in homes close to the river with a crest of 14.85 feet; at 16.85 feet, storm sewers may need plugging to prevent river water from backing up into city streets; and at 18.35 feet, the southwest part of Delano begins to experience flooding.
At a crest of 18.5 feet, flood walls may be installed on both sides of Bridge Avenue in Delano.
And, though it looked like the water was getting close to the bridge, it would have needed to rise more than 4 feet more to flow over the bridge, according to the NWS.