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High water puts county on high alert

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news Alexandria, 56308
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

High water is causing problems and concerns in Douglas County.

There have been several reports of boats floating off lifts, docks submerged under water and lake home sump pumps running overtime.

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“We’ve seen a lot of people starting to put out sandbags,” said Mack Carr with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Water Patrol. “We’ve seen docks and debris floating, and boats washed away and banged up on shore.”

Erosion is also a threat.

Dave Rush, the county’s Land and Resource Management director, addressed the topic at Tuesday’s Douglas County Board meeting.

“We are a great number of inches above the usual for our spring, and higher than usual for June rainfall,” he told commissioners.

Many local lakes are at or above what the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) considers ordinary water level, he added.

If the deluge continues, the situation could become comparable to 2011 as far as property damage and shoreline erosion, Rush said.

That’s why the county is considering enacting “temporary special controls,” including “no wake zones.”

Areas within 300 feet of the shoreline would become part of the zones during the high water period. Watercrafts would have to operate without causing a wake.

This would help keep shoreline from eroding and property from being swamped, Rush noted, but added it would only address watercraft. Wind and rain are the biggest factors, which can’t be controlled.

More rain is in the forecast – more than two inches were expected for Wednesday through Friday, along with the possibility of scattered thunderstorms on Saturday and Sunday. Rush said that even if it amounts to another inch to an inch and a half, it could still make a significant difference.

The lakes with the highest water right now are in the upper part of the watershed and include lakes Vermont, Irene, Miltona and Ida.

The DNR doesn’t offer advice about when no wake zones should be put in place or for how long, unless it is directly asked. The office in charge is located in St. Paul.

Rush said that the county should know by Sunday if temporary special controls are needed. He will contact commissioners to assemble for a special meeting if need be.

Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen also talked to the board about high water. He said calls are coming in requesting sandbags. He added that the county is facing the same issues it did in 2011 – figuring out how to distribute sandbags and at what cost.

In 2011, the sheriff’s office provided the bags and the citizens had to provide their own sand. The county’s current budget for emergencies would cover the cost of between 1,000 and 2,000 bags.

Hilltop Lumber and Menard’s are selling bags and it would cost the county about 32.5 cents a bag, Wolbersen said. The bags would be identified as help for protecting structures and homes, not shoreline.

About 3,000 bags were given out in 2011 and the sheriff’s office currently has 1,000 on hand.

Douglas County isn’t alone in dealing with high water threats. It’s a problem in many parts of the state.

In Todd County, the sheriff’s office is requesting boaters to operate their watercraft at slow or no-wake speeds until further notice.

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Echo Press Reporter Annie Harman contributed to this story. 

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