A tunnel under the river?

Now that the river waters are getting closer to normal levels, it’s time for another bridge story.

The Star Tribune has a story tonight that “citizen interest in a tunnel to divert interstate traffic from Stillwater has resurfaced in recent months,” though the article doesn’t name or quotes any of said interested citizens. Mn/DOT, not surprisingly, is less keen on the idea.

The idea has been studied in the past, most recently in the 1990s, according to the newspaper. It concluded that a tunnel would cost significantly more than a bridge. At that time, tunnel locations were contemplated in Oak Park Heights, or near the end of Brown’s Creek at the junction of Highways 95 and 96. The study noted that a tunnel in the northern location would have severe impacts on Brown’s Creek and the surrounding valley.

It’s probably safe to call that an understatement. I had forgotten about that particular location idea. Here’s a Bird’s Eye Bing map of the east end of Brown’s Creek. Before the two highways were built in the early 20th century, the area was a popular picnic destination for Stillwater residents. It may see greater public access once again if the Minnesota DNR completes its planned purchase of the Minnesota Zephyr train line for use as a trail.

In any event, with the current challenging economy, it’s hard for me to see a tunnel — at Brown’s Creek or anywhere — getting much serious consideration.

Now that the flooding is over, I intent to continue blogging about the St. Croix river throughout the year. Right now, I’m just counting down the days until the waters return to enjoyable boating levels. If the current forecast holds, we should drop below 83′ by next weekend, ending the high-water no wake rules.

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Crossing the lines

The Star Tribune has an interesting article tonight:

Despite being blocked by police barricades, despite signs warning people to stay away and despite the deck of the bridge being raised above the surging water, more than half a dozen people have been cited for trying to cross the span, according to Sgt. Jeff Stender of the Stillwater Police Department.

If only the barricades were labeled…

My favorite:

Five people were cited for trespassing Sunday night, including four teenagers from St. Paul, who Stender said were bouncing off a long, plastic, water-filled bladder that had been set up across Chestnut Street at the bridge entrance to fill a gap in the levee.

That would be this thing:

Maybe they should move it to one of the playgrounds after the flood.

 

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St. Croix River reaches flood stage… and recent views

At 10 a.m., the river level was 87.01 feet at the Stillwater gage, just above flood stage.

There isn’t much in the news today, but here are some photos from yesterday afternoon.

The Stillwater lift bridge continues to be closed and raised. A Minnesota Department of Transportation boat with an outboard motor was positioned at the end of the bridge, presumably to allow access to the bridge during a flood. It’s hard to see from this distance, but the water was above the bottom of the bridge on the west (Minnesota) end.

With the lift bridge closed, the last segment of the temporary levee was completed across Chestnut Street. The segment across the road is a large water-filled bag, called a “Water Inflated Property Protector.”

Stillwater police were stationed approximately every block along the riverfront:

This large water pump was position at Nelson Street, on the south end of the temporary levee. A similar pump on the other end of downtown near Mulberry Street was running and dumping a lot of water back into the river.

At Stillwater Marina, flood waters now cover much of the main parking lot, reaching the Marine Services, Inc. building:

Several boats stored in the Stillwater Marina lot have been relocated to the former Minnesota Zephyr depot parking lot:

Sandbags were stacked on manhole covers in the area:

A few blocks from the river, there was a welcome sight: since Friday, Chilakoot Hill had opened again.

This steep stretch of Second Street is closed each winter. For me, its reappearance — and the opening of Nelson’s Ice Cream — mark the true beginning of spring in Stillwater.

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Just about at flood stage: Saturday morning updates

The St. Croix waters steadily rise, and the current forecast predicts that it will reach the official flood stage – 87 feet – overnight tonight. The water is already higher than the first crest.

The main news yesterday, reported just about everywhere, was the closing of the Stillwater Lift Bridge:

Three barricades were placed in the middle of Chestnut Street promptly at 9 a.m., and the event was nothing if not well-documented:

Now, the wait begins. With talk of an extended flood season, it’s unclear how soon the bridge could resume service.

Stillwater and the residents across the river have been linked by a bridge or ferry for well over a century, so severing the link can cause some changes to normal life.

Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater provides ambulance service in the area, and the Stillwater Gazette reports that it is stationing an extra ambulance on the Wisconsin side of the bridge to serve those residents. The article doesn’t say where patients would be taken, but presumably other hospitals (like Hudson) are closer than Lakeview when the bridge is closed.

When the bridge closes, the cars have to go somewhere, and Michael Foley at Hudson Patch has an interesting video showing the backups in Hudson during the afternoon rush hour.

Driving home from dinner in Minneapolis last night, I noted that the large electronic sign over Highway 36 near Roseville was alerting drivers to the bridge closing. When the bridge is closed, I’m always a little surprised to see notices so far from the river. For those of us who grew up here in the St. Croix Valley, the Stillwater bridge can seem like a very local thing, and those signs were a good reminder that people also use the bridge in longer journeys.

Beyond the bridge closing, the only real news yesterday was that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton toured the area, and the state’s executive council extended the state of emergency Dayton called in Washington County and 45 other counties.

The Woodbury Bulletin has an update on preparations in Afton:

Afton’s Emergency Management Committee held a meeting Thursday to discuss flood preparations.

Currently Afton has 4,000 sandbags filled and 35 concrete barriers on hand to help with flood mitigation.

Additionally two pumps are set up on Afton’s levee. Pumping is expected to begin Friday evening.

“I think we’ll be OK,” [Afton public works director Ken] Johnson said.

On the upper river to the north, flooding hasn’t been a big issue yet, according to the Chisago County Press:

Levels of the St. Croix River in Chisago County have a ways to go before reaching potential flood stages. The river has had some major crests– in 2006 and in 2001; but so far the melt and downstream accumulation is shy of historic property damage levels.

The article has some context for levels at Grantsburg and St. Croix Falls.

This morning’s flood forecast has the river cresting at 88.6 feet early Thursday morning, about halfway between moderate (88) and major (89) flood levels. But all of this depends on how much it rains, and now we’ll watch for the storms expected this weekend.

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Wednesday evening updates and Stillwater photos

The river continues to rise. Here’s a roundup of recent news coverage:

The Stillwater Gazette has a good summary of recent developments in Stillwater.

City Engineer Shawn Sanders told the council that the St. Croix is forecast to crest early next week between 687 and 688 above sea level. Flood stage is 687 feet.

Sanders said the city is protected by Jersey barriers and sandbags up to 689 feet. But he warned that flood predictions can change and “the crest changes everyday sometimes more than once a day.”

That would put the crest somewhere in the lower half of the top 10 St. Croix river crests, but quite a bit lower than the 1965 record of 694.1 feet. Here’s the latest forecast:

The Gazette story also suggested that the high waters may last for several weeks:

The NWS also reported that flooding would likely continue for several weeks due to slow snow melt in the upper basins of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers

“Many rivers and streams will remain flooded across the warned area with many areas experiencing additional rises based on incomplete snow melt and runoff from recent precipitation over the past week,” forecasters said. “Some rivers have crested, but runoff was not complete, which will lead to ongoing flooding for some time.”

[Stillwater City Engineer Shawn] Sanders told council members that flooding would cause, “disruption to parking and the Downtown Area for quite some time.”

Though the high water looks calm on the surface, the Star Tribune notes that their speed and volume create hazards:

“This is a very dangerous situation. There’s a lot of water moving through very fast,” [state official Wade] Setter said. “It doesn’t always look as dangerous as it really is.”

The Star Tribune also covers preparations further south, near the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi.

The Hudson Star-Observer reports that if Hudson residents need sandbags to protect their homes, the city will charge them 25 cents per bag… as long as bags are available after city property is protected.

Alderperson Scot O’Malley said private property owners would be getting a deal since the sandbags cost the city 24 cents each.

[Mayor Alan] Burchill said the city just wants to cover its costs for materials.

Finally, here are some photos I took after work today.

Since Sunday, the concrete jersey barriers have been augmented with plastic sheets, sandbags and, in some locations, piled sand. It looks like P.D. Pappy’s restaurant is surrounded by high waters… definitely not for the first time:

The newly-reinforced temporary levee, Lowell Park, and lift bridge:

The flood waters have reached the south end of the levee, next to the Dock Cafe. Here’s a view from the other side… a good illustration of how they’ve built the levee:

Looking north (upriver) from the lift bridge:

About half of the lawn in south Lowell Park is still above water:

Another view of the south end of the park:

The trees in the water show where one would normally find Mile Long Island, a popular boating destination north of Stillwater:

Finally, I don’t think any flood blog can be complete without at least one photo of a street sign sticking out of the water:

 

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Lift bridge to close Friday

From the City of Stillwater:

LIFT BRIDGE UPDATE:  The lift bridge will close Friday, April 8, after the morning rush hour and will remain closed until the river goes down to a safe level.  Please check our website daily for updated information.

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A flood update from Wolf Marine

Wolf Marine, located about a mile north of Stillwater, sent the following update to its customers today:

We had a crest last week and it did not reach our building. The river went down a bit, but it’s predicted to crest again by Monday. It will reach our front door by that point and who knows after that. The ice finally went out of our harbor, but the river is too high to launch boats. It will probably be a while before we can resume normal operations. … Note that at 87.8′ it’s at our front door.

If you have any updates about how marinas and other local river businesses are preparing for the floods, add a comment below or send me an email.

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Tuesday evening updates

I’m holding my breath here as the Twins take a lead in the 10th inning.

Not a whole lot of St. Croix flood news today, but the river has begun to rise again.

The Star Tribune reports:

The St. Croix is expected to be running more than 1 1/2 feet higher than it did March 31 when it crests at Stillwater early next week. Adam Josephson, east metro manager for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said that could close the Stillwater Lift Bridge.

The South Washington County Bulletin notes the potential for flooding at the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi, both of which are rising.

Thanks to everyone who has been contributing great stories to the 1965 Flood Slideshow post. I’ll feature some of them here in a day or two — if you were there in ’65 or ’69, we’d love to hear your story.

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Updated St. Croix River flood warning

Today, the National Weather Service issued a new flood warning for the St. Croix:

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN CHANHASSEN HAS ISSUED A FLOOD WARNING FOR THE ST CROIX RIVER AT STILLWATER. FROM FRIDAY EVENING UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. AT 10:00 AM MONDAY THE STAGE WAS 85.6 FEET. MINOR FLOODING IS FORECAST. FLOOD STAGE IS 87.0 FEET. FORECAST…RISE ABOVE FLOOD STAGE BY FRIDAY EVENING AND CONTINUE TO RISE TO NEAR 87.7 FEET BY EARLY MONDAY MORNING. ADDITIONAL RISES ARE POSSIBLE THEREAFTER. THE CURRENT FORECAST IS BASED ON THE COMBINED WATER FLOW FROM BOTH THE MISSISSIPPI AND ST CROIX RIVERS. IMPACT…AT 86.8 FEET…BUCKEYE STREET GARAGE IN HUDSON IMPACTED. FLOOD HISTORY…THIS CREST COMPARES TO A PREVIOUS CREST OF 87.5 FEET ON APR 6 1986.

Here’s the forecast chart:

As the warning noted, that isn’t really a “crest” at the end of the graph.

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Monday morning flood news

There’s very little about St. Croix flooding in the news this morning. A brief item in the Star Tribune notes that flooding forecast for next weekend could close the Lift Bridge.

This morning’s flood forecast graph, based on a forecast issued last night, continues to show the water rising through next weekend:

Here’s the weather service’s rationale:

THIS RIVER FORECAST IS BASED ON SATURATED GROUND FROM PREVIOUS AND ON GOING SNOW MELT…AND OR THE PRECIPITATION RECEIVED OVER THE LAST FEW DAYS…AND THE FORECAST SNOW MELT WHERE APPROPRIATE…AND THE FORECAST PRECIPITATION OUT FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL DAYS.

The Star Tribune has an interesting story about what happens to sandbags after a flood. Normally, used sandbags are considered contaminated and disposed of accordingly, but Fargo is considering keeping some of them after a successful experiment last year.

While this blog only focuses on St. Croix River flooding, it’s worth noting that last night’s Red River forecast is pretty ominous, with a 13.5 foot rise predicted in the next seven days. Bob Collins at News Cut is always one of the best reads for Red River flooding, and no doubt will be this year as well.

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