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Rushford's levee work could begin this fall

Rushford's levee work could begin this fall
Rushford will be upgrading existing levees and building a new section along the Rush River in order to be recertified following the 2007 flood. This section is along MN. State 43 (Mill Street)

RUSHFORD — Rushford hopes to begin work this fall on its levee along Rush Creek both to prevent its failure during long-duration floods and to get it recertified to avoid more residents paying for flood insurance. 

City Administrator Stephen Sarvi said state and federal agencies are reviewing the plans now and that he expects them to give their comments, and probably approval, soon. If they approve, Rushford would seek bids for the work within several weeks. Work could begin in October or November and be done by July, he said.

The projected cost is $1.2 million, to be roughly split between the city of Rushford and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Sarvi said.

The levee was topped four years ago after record rain flooded much of the city. Damage to riprap and other problems caused by that flood has been fixed, he said. This project wouldn't add to the levee's height but would help it from failing in the future.

The 2007 flood was a flash flood that rose fast and fell fast. The Corps of Engineers is more worried about a flood that lasts longer, where high water might seep beneath the levee and make the levee fail from behind, Sarvi said.

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The work would find places where the levee is vulnerable, excavate behind it and fill the areas with sand. When flooding forces water underneath the levee, it will follow the sand and come up. At the surface, it would be collected and moved away, Sarvi said.

The project should also lead to re-certification of the levee. If the levee is not re-certified, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would remap the city and more residents would need flood insurance, Sarvi said.

"We absolutely believe we will get this project done in time," he said.

While the levee project won't prevent a flood like the one in 2007, work is being done upstream to lower the heights of future floods, Sarvi said.

Rushford is at the end of a funnel of the Rush Creek watershed, so all the water flows toward the city. But the city, state and federal agencies are coordinating work to hold water longer upstream of Rushford, he said.

That could involve dams to hold back water and release it slowly, more vegetation to hold water and other conservation measures, he said.

While those measures will take more time, it will be a better long-term fix to Rushford's flooding worries, Sarvi said.

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