By Anna Jauhola
Townships officers in Kittson County have their hands full with damages from heavy rains in June, July, the spring flood and flooding from last fall.
June’s average rainfall in Kittson County was 8.43 inches, according to stats from the Two Rivers Watershed office. The highest reported rainfall was in Teien Township with 11.66 inches in Section 12. Seven townships reported over 9 inches, four reported over 8 inches and two townships reported over 10 inches. The lowest reported total for June was 4.56 inches in St. Vincent Township, Section 24.
Many townships sustained heavy damages such as washed out roads and damaged bridges or culverts. The damage estimate for many townships is into the thousands.
“It’s just kind of been a trainwreck this year,” said Noel Peterson, chairman of South Red River Township. “I’m not going to tell you it’s worse here than anywhere else, because it’s not.”
In South Red River, township officers have been focused on getting two culvert bridges repaired. The township reported 9.24 inches from Section 1 for June.
“We had a meeting last night (Wednesday, July 15) and we think they’ve been under water more than they’ve been out of water this year,” Peterson said. “You get in the bull’s eye some years and that’s what happens.”
The bridges, which are actually large cement culverts, are 1 and 2 miles west of Red River Lutheran Church and help water flow through a coulee in that area. Steve Blomquist, Blomquist Trucking, has been trying to get to the area to replace gravel and shore up the road, but the rain has hindered that process.
Washouts on gravel roads are the most common type of damage townships have reported this year. Peterson said South Red River deals with the same six spots every time it floods.
Thompson Township Chairman Ed Lehrke said most of the washouts occurred north of Highway 175, but water affected roads on the south end of the township as well. The township reported 9.5 inches of rain in Section 12, which is by the MarKit Landfill.
“By Kenny Hultgren’s there was a big deluge of water that came through and kind of washed out in the ditch there,” Lehrke said. “The water compromised the bank and took out a pretty good bite from the corner going into the road crossing.”
Blomquist Trucking also takes care of graveling for Thompson Township, private contractors handle road repairs in conjunction with the county motor grader.
St. Joseph Township reported 10.32 inches of rain from Section 4 for June. Chairman Tom Meisner said the township has been able to deal with the water pretty well since last fall, but the rain in June really caused a lot of problems.
“We had 14 different sections of road affected by flooding during that advance,” he said of the heaviest rain that fell at the beginning of June. “We only have fewer than 30 miles of maintained roads and we had 14 places where water went across the road. It was significant for us.”
The township has a small budget due to having a low population, so they often collaborate with the county and private contractors for repairs. They closed three roads due to washouts and the rest were under water for a while but didn’t sustain major damage.
The most significant damage happened on a low spot on a road near a county ditch.
“The ditch migrated through the road. There’s quite a significant washout there,” Meisner said.
So far, St. Joseph Township has spent $17,000 on repairs.
Teien Township Chairman Mark Tungseth said they are dealing mostly with drainage issues. He and the officers are working to re-evaluate the drainage and culvert system, and handling road damage due. However, much of the work continued to be delayed as more water fell and filled the area.
“We found one culvert that’s not up to specs by the watershed, so we’re upgrading that one,” Tungseth said. “Other than that, it’s been a couple roads that have some damage and we’re still dealing with the spring flood damage. It’s been a triple whammy since we had that fall flood, too.”
He said the water is still too high in several areas and they can’t get a good estimate of what needs to be done for a couple of larger culverts in the township that help with the flow of Judicial Ditch 10. For the summer and spring flood together, Tungseth estimates Teien Township will spend as much as $25,000 for cleanup and repairs.
All townships have been working with Scot Olson, county emergency manager, to track damage and repair costs in hopes of being reimbursed by the state. So far, townships work with contractors to complete repairs where they are able.
Olson said the county has two emergency disaster declarations filed already for this year. He also brought two more to the Kittson County Commission this week to cover rain events that caused flooding in the southeast portion of the county by Karlstad.
“This is a state declaration so it’s a 75 percent state and 25 percent local shares,” Olson said. “The county is on the hook to make their threshold of $8,740 and when you break it down to townships and agencies, they have to meet $3,300.”
Olson noted all the declarations are still pending approval from Gov. Tim Walz, however he is hopeful they will be approved for that 75 percent state funding. Tungseth, Peterson, Lehrke and Meisner said they appreciate the help they’ve received from the county and Olson has been great to work with.
“Scot’s done a good job. And a year ago when the people of Hallock helped us with sandbags, man that was appreciated a lot,” Tungseth said.
By Anna Jauhola