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Water run-off causing troubles for homeowners in south Brainerd

Brendan and Beth Donahue have a pool in their backyard, but not by design.

It’s water from a wetland located behind their 2 1/2-acre property on Burr Lane south of Brainerd in Crow Wing Township. The heavy rain that has fallen in the past weeks has had nowhere to go but the lowland in their backyard.

The Donahues placed sand bags to protect their house last week.

“This is the second time this has happened this summer,” said Beth Donahue. “The first time was three weeks ago. We don’t have any water in our basement.

“There was a meeting at the township and they knew of the flooding and people were angry. We just don’t want this to happen again. We’ve lived here a little over two years. Hopefully they’ll come up with something so it doesn’t happen again.”

Brendan Donahue said the water run-off problem was an issue last spring too. He said last year the water also took over most of their backyard, but it evaporated after three weeks because of dry conditions. This year there has been too much rain.

“If we didn’t sand bag it would have went to the house,” said Brendan Donahue. “The water was starting to recede and starting to evaporate, but when the water gets ... high it has no where to go. Our neighbor also is having issues. We want to find a solution and we don’t want to worry about our homes being destroyed by water.”

According to Crow Wing County and Crow Wing Township, the preliminary and final plat of White Oaks Glen — the development the Donahues live in — was approved by both organizations and it followed the ordinances that were in place at the time. The development was approved in 2003 for 36 rural residential lots.

Chris Pence, Crow Wing County Land Services supervisor, said the county updated its stormwater run-off plan in 2006, so when White Oaks Glen was developed it followed an ordinance that was created in the 70s. Pence said before 2006 the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) got involved with the stormwater run-off plans when they were needed with any project dealing with wetlands.

“This development is a great example of why we do things differently today,” said Pence. “We changed our practices when it comes to set backs, roads and the stormwater run-off plans of developments.

“To be honest, if we were to redo this plat and start over, I could not guarantee that there would be no water there (in the Donahue’s property.) You cannot predict Mother Nature on when it dumps these types of rain events. I think we could have done better with our new ordinance, but when you have issues of high water tables and it doesn’t saturate, it has no where to go.

“This is not the only development in the county that has this problem.”

Pence said Crow Wing Township took over its own planning and zoning issues in 2006, so the matter with the development is in the township’s hands.

Mark Platta, Crow Wing Township chair, said one of the reasons why he got on the township board was because of the White Oaks Development. Platta said there are too many homes in the development where there is a wetland involved.

“When this plat was developed we had a series of dry years so everyone was building homes,” said Platta. “And now with the weather, we got like 14 inches of rain in one month and the water is becoming an issue, it has no place to go. Not all the homes were built where they should have (built on the lowland of the property).”

Platta said he does not believe there is a stormwater run-off plan on the development.

“The legality of it is that you cannot drain a wetland and you could fill up a portion of it, but that’s not a good idea,” said Platta.

Platta said another issue that could be causing the water problems are the beaver dams. Platta said the dams could be getting clogged with debris.

Platta said the township has talked about adding a culvert to Ravenwood Road, located off of Burr Lane, but he said he does not believe that it would fix the water issue. Platta said residents have expressed their concerns about Ravenwood, built near the wetlands, believing the road blocked a natural drainage for the development. Platta said he did not believe that to be true.

Platta said that the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District is looking at the development to see if there is something that can be done to fix the water issue.

“We can’t do anything in terms of the land, unless it affects the roads,” said Platta. “There also is another group looking at the wetlands and the original survey and they’ll have to work with the homeowners.”

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at