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Rochester residents get promise of help with flooding

Homeowners

say high water threatens their property values

By Jeffrey Pieters

jpieters@postbulletin.com

The problems were too technical and the bureaucracy too tangled for a group of southwest Rochester residents concerned about recurring flooding to get all of their questions resolved on Wednesday.

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They did, however, get a satisfying answer to their top question: Local officials said, Yes, we will help.

Wednesday’s meeting was called by city council member Marcia Marcoux, who represents residents on Interlachen and Manor Woods lakes.

Those residents have complained that high-water events have been more frequent and increasingly destructive, ruining shorelines and filling the waterways with sediment.

Jeff Wills, who heads the property owners’ association on Interlachen Lake, said there is "growing frustration" with the situation, which predates the Aug. 18-19 floods.

"We’re very fearful right now about our property values," he said.

The problem arises from the fact that the south branch of Cascade Creek flows through the two lakes.

The creek-branch drains 12,174 acres in a watershed that extends west past Byron, and it is the only waterway to Rochester that did not have a flood-control reservoir built on it in the 1990s.

Olmsted County officials sought Department of Natural Resources approval in 2004 for a plan to use two county roads as mini-dams restricting the upstream flow but didn’t get it.

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The DNR’s opposition stemmed from an organizational principle to keep free-flowing rivers freely flowing, said Corey Hanson, the agency’s area hydrologist. Fish migratory patterns are part of the reason for that.

Hanson did say the agency would consider proposals to detain water on several of the creek’s dozen or more tributaries, and he said the DNR would grant a permit allowing sediment removal on Interlachen Lake as a form of flood recovery.

County Commissioner David Perkins, who, like Marcoux, represents the area, planned to assemble a team of residents and local officials to start meeting with the DNR to develop an action plan.

Gary Lingbeck, an Interlachen resident and one of the founders of Pemstar, will serve on that group.

"If we can solve the problems upstream, we’re going to solve probably 90 percent of the problems downstream," he said.

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