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No easy answers for Forest Drive flooding

BAXTER - Flooding in the Forest Drive neighborhood has the Baxter City Council looking for solutions.

The conundrum comes in trying to come up with solutions that work for as many homes as possible.

Right now it has taken the city pumping day and night to the tune of a million to two million gallons of water a day to make a dent.

The neighborhood is west of Gander Mountain.

A wet spring and early summer filled yards and ditches in the Forest Drive area, which is just off Excelsior Road west of Highway 371. The mobile homes are above ground but water is filling the backyards and front ditches.

Mayor Darrel Olson said if the cure is a quarter of a million dollars and it doesn't do everything, does the city look at buying people out and trying to relocate them. Olson asked if that would create enough space for a holding pond or would that just be a mosquito mess?

Trevor Walter, public works director, said there is no place for storage because the water level is so high in this area of Baxter. Digging just means a hole filled with the water table that is already there.

A potential quick fix from a staff report suggests enlarging a small wetland west of the most significant flooding short of doing a full survey on the neighborhood.

Administrator Gordon Heitke said they've come to the conclusion that a nice quick simple fix is not going to have much of an impact.

Other options discussed included a grass swale using topography to direct the water or installing pipe and catch basins, or ditches. The driveways on the rural road design do not have culverts.

"You get a 5- to 6-inch rain in one day you are still going to have flooding," Walter said. "But for right now water may stand for a few hours or a day. ... This fix looks at the worst spot but it doesn't clear every spot."

Council member Mark Cross asked if using drain tile would make sense. Issues before the council in coming up with a solution include elevation concerns, the need to have enough velocity for water through the pipe to keep it from being a maintenance issue. And since pipes would be shallow, there were worries about freezing and sustainability of the plastic pipes. The council members also talked about regrading yards and if that would be an option and what would the city need to do for reclamation once the work was done.

If the fix included piping and catch basins, the land requirement is a small easement requirement. It would be wider if swales were used. In the Grand Oaks Drive area swales were used and in some cases created wetlands where water is standing all year.

The city also has to be mindful of how a fix will affect water as it drains to the pond by Gander Mountain, how it would affect wetlands and even the level of the Monet pond at the Northland Arboretum.

If water levels are lowered upstream and water is sent too fast to the wetland, Walter said there is the risk of blowing out the bridge and culverts in the arboretum. Structures along the way keep the levels in the wetlands from dropping too low.

Walter said the drainage complex can't go lower than the wetland, which was once an isolated wetland until ditches were built and areas drained.

Walter said this spring is reminiscent of 1988, one of the wettest years in Baxter.

The city building ordinance calls for a 3-foot separation from the 100-year flood level. Most mobile homes that make up the neighborhood meet that requirement because they are elevated.

The problem, Olson said, was people needed to build docks to get to the front door. He noted it was a tough fix and with the city's current ordinance the neighborhood would never have been built without a stormwater plan. The neighborhood was put in during the late '70s or early '80s, the city reported.

The council supported spending some engineering funds to get a better idea what plans could work and benefit the most residents.

Council member Rob Moser said: "I think we need more information, more data."

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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