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Crow Wing County reports water levels dropping

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Six pumps were pushing 10,000 gallons of water per minute from the Black Bear Miller Lakes in Trommald over the levee to the Mississippi River this past weekend.

In a flooding update before Crow Wing County Board Tuesday, John Bowen, emergency management director, said water has dropped, particularly in the Mississippi River. But rain during the first week of July and during the July Fourth holiday put the Black Bear Miller Lakes neighborhood in danger of flooding homes and inundating the road.

“In the last few days, we are seeing water actually drop which is a good sign,” Bowen said.

With 13 Minnesota counties, including Aitkin and Crow Wing counties, in the federal disaster declaration, Bowen said a July 16 briefing will provide information to cities and townships. Those briefings will detail the process from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Bowen said the county hasn’t heard much from residents who have handled their own flooding issues, although he knows there has been significant flooding of basements. Bowen said the county wants to hear from residents with flood damage and will be organizing public assistance meetings to see what federal assistance will be available for individuals.

At the Black Bear Miller Lakes Levee, one of the six pumps was taken off-line last night. The others are running continuously. After the rain from the Fourth of July storm, Bowen said they were afraid they’d lose the road. He added the Mississippi River dropped during the last few days and should go down another two feet.

Bowen said they haven’t learned of flood water contamination of any wells or septic systems at this point. People along the road in the Black Bear and Miller lakes area were asked to pump their septic systems as a precautionary measure. Bowen said they will be doing some monitoring there. Water was around five houses in that area.

“I think we were very fortunate given the amount of water we had,” Bowen said.

Individuals affected by the flooding from the rainfall between June 14-20 may be eligible for help, Bowen said.

The Black Bear and Miller lakes were the only two designated as slow, no-wake zones. The sheriff’s department issued a reminder to boaters before July Fourth asking them to be mindful of high water levels and potential for damages to shoreland and lake property. Docks were routinely underwater or washed away.

Commissioner Paul Thiede said his phone hasn’t stopped ringing and he questioned if the county might not have done more in regard to no-wake zones. Aitkin County established a county wide no-wake zone. Thiede said with narrow channels where boats were still running at full throttle, perhaps other specific areas — such as narrow channels where boats were going full throttle — could also have been designated as no-wake zones. Thiede pointed to incidents where boaters were reminded by residents of the wave damage potential and responded by moving farther out into the lake.

Administrator Tim Houle said it would have been impossible to enforce and there were not enough buoy markers to put in place. Thiede said one of his frequent correspondents might say that is a typical government response and buoys weren’t needed as word-of-mouth would do, allowing neighbors to say it was a temporary measure.

The sheriff’s department did talk to people around the lakes and lake associations and supported asking people to respect the high-water status. The department noted the Black Bear and Miller lakes designations were done to protect infrastructure such as the levee and road.

The pumps at the levee are still pumping an enormous amount of water, the sheriff’s department reported, noting after an overnight rain the lake went up a couple of inches.

County staff reported emergency management, the sheriff’s department and the highway department all cooperated and worked well together throughout the process.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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