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Damage estimates continue to mount in region

REGIONAL -- Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for 36 Minnesota counties, including all six counties in The Globe coverage area, due to damages caused by torrential rains and flooding in recent w...

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Kids swim in the flooded ballpark at Dann's Island Wayside Park in Jackson. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

REGIONAL - Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for 36 Minnesota counties, including all six counties in The Globe coverage area, due to damages caused by torrential rains and flooding in recent weeks.

The declaration directs state agencies to begin conducting preliminary damage assessments in counties where damage estimates exceed their per capita damage indicator. In Nobles County, damages must exceed $39,335.82 to access state disaster funding.

As of Friday, Nobles County Emergency Management Director Joyce Jacobs said the county has tabulated more than $450,000 in damage from rain storms since June 20.

If, or more likely when, counties record enough damage to meet the state’s threshold of $7.7 million, it becomes a federal disaster, setting in motion a reimbursement process through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

If the threshold isn’t met, the state only reimburses 75 percent of the costs incurred by cities, townships, counties and other governmental entities. FEMA, on the other hand, provides 100 percent reimbursement.

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While the FEMA declaration brings with it more paperwork and documentation, Jacobs said the extra work is worth it for agencies to get 100 percent reimbursement for its costs.

The window for reportable damage from the storms began June 9, and remains open as flooding is ongoing.

“They won’t close the window until they’re pretty sure the damage is done being created,” Jacobs said.

In Nobles County, Jacobs said the estimates she’s received thus far include damages to township roads and culverts, the bicycle path along Sunset Bay in Olson Park, the Buffalo Ridge Regional Rail Authority’s railroad tracks, and the new water quality pond at Prairie View. There were also costs for pumping the lagoon in the Leota Sanitary District, and for costs after the lift station pump burned out in the city of Rushmore.

Jacobs said 17 of 20 townships in Nobles County reported damage, and all are guessing on the costs at this point as they wait for water to recede to get a true picture of the damages.

“We asked the townships for their best guesstimates,” Jacobs said, adding that any public entity with infrastructure damage can submit information to her office.

With the BRRRA rail line, approximately 20 feet of track was significantly undermined in the Adrian area. Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre said the damage was estimated at $15,000, and work to armor the bank with larger rock was completed quickly to restore use of the rail line.

Jackson County As of Tuesday afternoon, Jackson County Emergency Management Director Tawn Hall had tabulated nearly $407,000 in damage estimates from flooding, with an estimated $369,000 of that in damage to roads and bridges.

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“The majority of our damages have been washed out roads and culverts,” Hall said, adding that another $25,000 in damage is estimated to county parks and recreation areas, as all of the county parks had flooding.

Last Sunday, sandbaggers spent seven hours trying to keep floodwaters from reaching Jackson Cycle, Dan Pike Auction Co. and the softball fields, as the Des Moines River swelled.

Hall said with sewer drains backing up and the river out of its banks, people were kayaking.

“As much fun as it looks, it’s not the best for sanitation,” she said.

As of Tuesday, Ashley Park was still flooded, as well as the city’s frisbee golf course. Hall continues to collect damage estimates, but believes the county will have close to half a million in damages.

“If townships and entities have new damages, please take photos so we can document them,” she advised. “We all need that documentation for our paperwork.”

Round Lake, Sioux Valley and Petersburg were among the hardest hit townships, Hall said.

Cottonwood County As of Friday morning, Cottonwood County Emergency Management Director Paul Johnson said initial damage estimates are at $122,000, but with more floodwaters expected to flow down the Des Moines River from the Lake Shetek area, he said his estimates could double or triple within the next week.

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The county declared a state of emergency June 22, as damage estimates began to accumulate. Thus far, Johnson said his estimates include about $70,000 in damage to roads and bridges, $12,000 for buildings and equipment for sandbagging (that would climb on Friday), $10,000 for debris clearance and the rest for emergency pumping, barricading and overtime hours logged.

“(Debris costs) will go up because there will be a lot more debris with the new flood,” Johnson said, adding that he has estimated low on roads and bridges as just one township has reported thus far.

“The river is rising,” Johnson said, noting a nearly one-foot increase between Thursday and Friday. “It’s possible we could see another foot in talking to the weather service.

“We’re kind of in the middle of this yet here,” he added. “I thought it was done, but not with what happened in Murray County.”

Pipestone County Information is still being gathered in Pipestone County, according to Emergency Management Director Casey Sievert, who had hoped to gather information from townships Thursday before returning to Murray County to assist with flooding efforts there Friday.

“For us, it looks like the majority of the damage is to roads,” Sievert said.

Rock County It was just four years ago that Rock County endured significant flooding and irreparable damage to the dam at Blue Mounds State Park. This time around, the impact was a bit less, according to Rock County Commissioner Sherri Thompson.

As of Tuesday, Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre had compiled $280,000 in estimated damages county-wide.

“We had low-lying flooding - a lot of water over gravel roads, a number of culverts that have to be reset, undercurrent and shoulder washouts,” Oldre said. “There was a lot of damage. The good news is no one was hurt.”

Eleven of the county’s 12 townships reported damage, with the greatest impact to Beaver Creek Township, where the Beaver Creek flooded and took out several roads.

Northwest Iowa In northwest Iowa, county engineers are tasked with tabulating damages to infrastructure. Their costs continue to rise as overtime hours are logged and equipment and supplies are used to repair and add gravel to roads. Officials with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security are expected to visit the area next week to assess the damage.

Osceola County Engineer Aaron Holmbeck said Friday he has between $50,000 and $100,000 in recorded damages thus far, but anticipates the damages will climb into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“The main figures I have are our labor, equipment and gravel,” Holmbeck said, adding that numerous roads were overtopped and culverts plugged in the county. “The real question is how much scour damage there is to structures. That’s hard to know until the water goes down; that’s the thing that could cost a lot of money.

“We really have to inspect our bridges,” Holmbeck said. “Over the next month, as long as we don’t have continued flooding, we’re going to have a good idea (of damages).”

Lyon County Engineer Laura Sievers was unavailable for comment. The deadline to gather damage estimates in advance of the Homeland Security visit is Tuesday.

Related Topics: LYON COUNTY
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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