MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After more than four years of planning, repairs have begun along the banks of Minnehaha Creek. The repairs are designed with the future in mind.

The damage occurred in 2014, when historic rainfall washed out the stream channel in ten spots. January to June 2014 was the wettest start to a year in the Twin Cities in 144 years of records.

The flooding was enough to submerge the dam at Gray’s Bay, on Lake Minnetonka, which couldn’t control the water feeding into Minnehaha Creek.

“If you were standing up on top of Minnehaha Falls you could actually, physically, feel the ground rumbling,” Minnehaha Creek Watershed District project and land manager Tiffany Schaufler said. “Normally the creek is flowing at an average around 150 cubic feet per second. It peaked at just under 900 cubic feet per second, which is 30 times greater than the 100-year storm flow for Minnehaha Creek.”

The power of that water left the landscape changed forever — banks eroded and undercut, with trails falling into the creek and eroding.

The visible repairs underway — adding soil to rebuild the stream banks, and flood-hardy vegetation with roots to lock it in place — are only a part of the recovery plan.

Schaufler said that the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District formed a partnership with the National Weather Service.

“Whenever we make an adjustment, 22 miles upstream of here at Lake Minnetonka, it takes about two days to see the effect down here. So strategically making and reducing discharge ahead of rain events,” Schaufler said.

It’s a water-management challenge that will continue to grow, as climate change continues to raise the possibility for very wet years in Minnesota.

A quarter-million dollar grant from FEMA is paying for the repairs which, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District says, should be wrapped up by Spring.

Mike Augustyniak

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