Cottage Grove, Newport begin flood preparationsCottage Grove public safety workers are preparing emergency plans should possible record-high flood levels close the Grey Cloud Island Bridge, cutting off access to homeowners on the island.
Cottage Grove public safety workers are preparing emergency plans should possible record-high flood levels close the Grey Cloud Island Bridge, cutting off access to homeowners on the island.
And in Newport, city officials reiterated they would not sandbag that city's aging levee as flood preparations continue in south Washington County.
National Weather Service flood predictions have worsened, with the chances of record floods increasing and major flooding along the Upper Mississippi River appearing a near-certainty.
Cottage Grove officials met last week to lay out how emergency services would be provided to residents on rural Grey Cloud Island if flood waters top a low iron bridge that spans a back river channel, connecting the township to the mainland. In the latest flood forecasts that appears increasingly likely to happen.
The forecast released last week upped the chances of the Mississippi River reaching major flood stage at St. Paul and at Hastings to more than 98 percent, and the chances of reaching record flood levels to more than 40 percent.
Access and utilities to the sparsely populated island could be cut off, officials said, and residents would be urged to evacuate before the bridge was inundated.
“Once it goes under, and that causeway (leading to the bridge) goes under, you can’t get back and forth to the island,” said Public Works Director Les Burshten. Burshten said the city is preparing for flood levels similar to 1997.
Portions of the River Acres neighborhood in south Cottage Grove would also be impacted by high floodwaters.
“Our response is going to be delayed” if roads are flooded by the rising river, said Cottage Grove Public Safety Director Craig Woolery.
Emergency medical services would still be provided to the island, Woolery said. Cottage Grove Public Safety will station an ambulance on the island to respond to possible medical emergencies on Grey Cloud Island when access is cut off, with boats used to transport them to a staging area at the Mississippi Dunes Golf Course.
Cottage Grove will also provide sand and bags to residents who could be impacted by the floodwaters, but will not lead a flood fight, leaving the sandbagging to homeowners.
No sandbags in Newport
In Newport, city officials last week repeated a similar “passive assistance” policy. The city will provide sandbags to residents near an 800-foot-long levee along Cedar Lane that has held back floodwaters for more than 40 years. But officials said the city would not lead a wider effort to fortify the earthen floodwall like it did in 2001, when thousands of sandbags held back water that otherwise would have topped the levee.
Newport Public Works Director Bruce Hanson said last week the latest forecasts look much like those in 2001.
Newport City Administrator Brian Anderson said the levee’s unstable state — it was constructed privately between 1969 and 1971 and intended to be temporary — has made it too risky to mass volunteers atop it for a flood fight.
“It was meant to be taken down and never was,” Anderson said of the levee.
City Attorney Fritz Knaak told Newport City Council members the liability risk against the city if it did so “is enormous.”