NEWPORT, Minn. (WCCO) — Walking up to Newport’s clay levee, which is holding back the rain-swollen Mississippi River, city administrator Deb Hill didn’t like what she was seeing Wednesday.
“It is way different than it was yesterday, holy cow,” Hill said.
The flooded Mississippi is just about one foot from breaching over the top of the levee and swallowing a number of homes it is designed to protect.
“We have four of eight homes that are most impacted by the levy,” Hill said, “because once it collapses, it is not going to be repaired.”
The earthen levee was built after 1965’s devastating floods. According to many in town, it was never engineered to be a permanent solution and is old and badly leaking.
For city crews, that means they have to monitor a system of temporary pumps that are keeping flood waters out of storm sewers and off the low-lying streets.
The crews are working to keep ahead of the leaking water by patrolling the levee and pumping any seepage back into the river.
Steve Svoboda lives at the north end of the protective wall and is taking the looming flood in stride. That’s despite the fact his garage is already knee-deep in dirty water.
“Just once in a while it does this, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “You’ve got to let the water come and roll with the flow.”
He is among a handful of riverfront homeowners who remain open to the idea of a city buyout of their property. Svoboda says he would be supportive of replacing the homes with a city park if the city’s offer is fair.
So far, Svoboda believes they have been buying only distressed properties for pennies on the dollar.
Still, he is in no rush to leave his piece of paradise despite the precarious nature of the levee running along his land.
“It could go at anytime,” Svoboda said, “so you just kind of learn to live life on the edge, that’s what you do.”