Minnesota waters getting back to normal — sort of

  • Article by: MARY LYNN SMITH and BILL MCAULIFFE , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: July 8, 2014 - 12:16 PM

Fresh off a new storm that dumped at least another half-inch of rain in parts of the Twin Cities area Monday, federal and state officials will be back at work Tuesday assessing flood damage from the state’s rainiest June.

With waters receding in many areas, life is returning to normal. Farmers are back in the field; boaters are returning to lakes, and most of the roads and bridges that had to be closed have been reopened.

Recreational boaters are now able to travel the length of the Mississippi River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reopened three locks Monday that had been closed for more than a month due to heavy flows.

The locks reopened to commercial traffic Saturday.

Local officials throughout the state estimate that the season’s record rains caused tens of millions dollars worth of damage.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency toured four southwestern counties last week and return this week to tour another 15. The damage estimate is needed before the governor can ask for a presidential declaration of disaster and federal money that probably will apply only to public property — roads, bridges, parks and schools — and not homes.

Along Minnesota’s northern border, the swollen Rainy River is beginning to recede, but Voyageurs National Park has closed all of its backcountry trails and campsites for two weeks while officials there assess and repair the flood damage. Officials hope to reopen that area by July 21. The closure does not include most of the boat-in campsites on the main Voyageurs lakes, though several reservable campsites that were closed earlier remain closed.

Rainy Lake has leveled off around 2.7 feet above flood stage, its highest level since 1950.

Sean Oveson, who operates the concessions at the Kettle Falls Hotel and Resort, said many docks are still underwater on Rainy Lake, requiring makeshift bridges. “There’s a little less lake traffic, but customers are still coming up,” he said. “The fishing has been really good. There’s a lot of current in the channels, and the walleyes like the current. ”

Things are starting to get back to normal, Oveson said. Over in the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the majority of the roads that were closed because of the heavy rains are now open, said Kris Reichenbach, Superior National Forest Service spokeswoman.

“Anecdotally, I’m hearing lake levels are up and few portages were flooded earlier,” she said. “But we’re pretty much back to normal.”

Not so much for the mosquito population. “Right now the mosquitoes are really thick. We’ve had the warm humid weather that they just love, and the kind of cover that they love is lush and green.”

The good news: “We’re almost out of the black fly season.”

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. mlsmith@startribune.com • 612-673-4788 mcaul@startribune.com • 612-673-7646

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