Bungo Township roads face flooding problems
Rising water levels near Pine River have set back road work in Bungo Township. Township Supervisor Larry Peterson said the township has spent a considerable amount of money in the past several years on various minimum maintenance roads, including...
Rising water levels near Pine River have set back road work in Bungo Township.
Township Supervisor Larry Peterson said the township has spent a considerable amount of money in the past several years on various minimum maintenance roads, including Cass County's 32nd Street Southwest, known locally as Everett Dabill Road, and 60th Avenue Southwest, known locally as Ray Arnold's Road, next to Rob Lake.
Much of that work has been undone by high water levels that began this spring and have continued into the summer.
"We have had Class 5 gravel on these roads, but it's gone. It's washed into the grass in the last year or so, because it's just too much water," Peterson said. "That's why I called these folks from the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to see if we could get some help with this, because our township cannot afford it. We've used other materials, too, but that washed away before. It's an ongoing deal. If we don't get the road up above the water level it isn't going to stay."
"The high water is common right now across the county and across the region because of heavy precipitation," said Darrin Hoverson, DNR area hydrologist. "The water levels in both surface water and groundwater levels are high because of heavy precipitation. This lake doesn't have the surface water outlet until you get a couple feet higher than the water is now. It's an internally drained lake. Being so, the water isn't going to come out unless it hits the high water outlet."
Hoverson said the lake's outlet is actually lower than the level of the road.
Spring runoff and erosion are responsible for washing away much of the road surface from Everett Dabill Road, and rainy conditions have caused Rob Lake to completely overtake 60th Avenue, turning the adjacent cow pasture into a pond. Peterson said the water on the road was more than 2 feet at its deepest. The road was so flooded that Peterson put up a "road closed" sign in the interest of public safety, closing off a popular route to Spider Lake in the Foothills State Forest.
Peterson said damage to 32nd Street was done during the spring thaw when water from Bungo Creek filled the ditches and began running down the road, washing the previous attempts at resurfacing the road into the ditches and creek.
"We've got, I would say, close to $12,000 or $15,000 invested in the road altogether over the last few years, plus other help we've got. We can't keep throwing money into an empty hole, and that's kind of what's happening here. We've got to do something because it's wetlands and public water coming out of these sloughs and lakes," Peterson said.
In addition to these two roads, Peterson said there are three culverts in the township that need work, because water pressure has actually caused water to wash out the soil under and around the culverts.
This problem is not exclusive to Bungo Township. Flooding in some parts of the state have led Gov. Mark Dayton to formally ask for federal disaster aid. The U.S. Department of Transportation released $5 million in flood relief funds for flood repair in July. These are some of the the funds that Bungo Township would like to use to repair its roads. To that end, Peterson has been in contact with Cass County and the DNR to assess the damage to the township roads, estimate the cost of repairs, and make a plan for repairing the roads.
Kerry Swenson with Cass County Emergency Management said he has been in contact with Peterson about funds to repair 60th Avenue.
"It is part of public infrastructure. It certainly can be addressed and looked at once the water levels go down. There is still time within this last round of public damage that FEMA has been looking at," Swenson said. "We would have to get an idea what it is going to take to bring it back up to pre-flood condition and get a cost on it, then we can try to submit it and see what FEMA says."
Swenson said funds available from FEMA and other agencies is exclusively for bringing roads back to pre-flood conditions, but Peterson and Hoverson both noted that the damaged roads need work to prevent flooding in the future. Any work would also need to be done with the health of nearby water sources in mind.
"Because it's a road, and it's a flooded road, clearly it needs to be raised, and what we are looking at is if the road can be raised without widening the road, where more fill would be placed in the public water. That's the preferred alternative," Hoverson said. "The concerns are, there is water there now. Can it be done when the water is lower and should it be done with the water on top of it now so we reduce impacts to the resource itself, the clays and the Class 5 and put a bunch of sediment there? Will it just wash into the lake?"
Though FEMA relief funds are not available for improving roads to prevent flooding in the future, there are funds available for such work.
"There would have to be an application process done. It's called 'mitigation funds' and there are mitigation funds available to look at building a road to prevent something, but whether we can do anything to prevent that again is going to depend a lot on what the DNR says. I know when I spoke to Larry, he said he was going to contact the DNR and get back to me," Swenson said.
Peterson said he is still reaching out to the Army Corps of Engineers for additional review of the road.
Holverson said he is researching damage on 60th Avenue and has not yet been asked to look into 32nd Street. Funds for repair of flood damaged roads are available on a first-come, first-served basis and often requires cooperation among various agencies, including the DNR and Army Corps of Engineers. Swenson said because many roads are still under water and cannot be assessed for damage, FEMA funds could be available for application for another month or more.