Rainy River Basin Floods Slowly Retreating

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David Colburn

REGIONAL – A major turning point in record flooding in the Rainy River Basin occurred last weekend when Rainy Lake officially crested, signaling the start of an arduously slow retreat that could last up to two months .
“The lake appears to have crested and fallen slightly,” said Monday’s report from the National Weather Service Office in Duluth. “The level of Rainy Lake is 1,113.2 feet, 22 inches above the 2014 peak and 2.5 inches above the now previous record set in 1950. The level of Rainy Lake is expected to drop 1.5 three inches between June 13 and June 20.
The report notes that the lake remains likely to rebound in the event of heavy rainfall in the region, but the NWS forecast through the end of the month calls for near to below normal rainfall.
And while flows through the watershed remain high for this time of year, inflows to the Namakan chain of lakes, including Kabetogama and Crane Lake, and to Rainy have declined sharply.
“As declines continue, any future rain is likely to only ‘pause’ the downward trend in levels, but is unlikely to push levels above the maximum peak,” it said. The report.
As a result, flood mitigation activities around Kabetogama and Crane Lake have diminished since the days of the furious sandbags, although owners remain mindful of the need to maintain the sandbag walls against damage. potential caused by wind-driven waves and boat wakes as the water slowly recedes.
The Township of Kabetogama suspended flood support activities on June 5 after producing approximately 135,000 sandbags, 35,000 produced by volunteers over a ten-day period before members of the Minnesota National Guard arrived. Efforts to fill and set up the sandbags were supported by teams from state correctional facilities in Togo and Willow River, Littlefork School, volunteers assembled by Hibbing Police, the Conversation Corps, Voyageurs National Park, Team Rubicon, and St. Louis County Highways and Emergency Management Services.
Arrowhead Lodge
The inexorable rise and slow fall of the water for weeks and months instead of days has a unique impact on the people and property affected. Now more than a week after the ridge, Mike Dario, owner of Arrowhead Lodge and Resort in Kabetogama, is grateful his resort hasn’t been hit as hard as some of its neighbors, but the fight against the flood has still been an ordeal.
Dario’s wharf had suffered heavy damage from high winds just before the flooding started, and the rising waters unfortunately did the rest.
“The high tide really kind of finished them off,” he said. “Any chance we had of saving them or fixing them is gone. It was just before the fishing season opened. Dario estimated the loss to be between $100,000 and $200,000.
This year the ice was late, but Kabetogama Lake cleared before the fishery opened and Dario greeted the anglers.
“We checked in a group of people on Friday before opening and by the time these people left they were dragging themselves through the water to get to their cars,” Dario said.
As the water kept coming in, Dario’s bait shack was the next to be hit.
“This is where I keep all my bait, my ice, this is where we keep and clean our customers’ fish, this is where we keep our gear – it’s a source of income for us” , did he declare. “On top of that, boat rentals have gone down.”
He had to shut down one of his cabins when his gas regulator went under water, a unit that otherwise would have made nearly $2,000 a week, Dario said.
“The only saving grace we had was that our restaurant was open and then the water kept coming. It flooded our parking lot. We spent $1,000 on gravel last year to redo it and it’s completely underwater,” he said. “That water was waist deep in the lot and I couldn’t drive a truck out there without fear of damaging it.”
Dario said he held back from starting the sandbag efforts because he didn’t want to decrease the supply for those who needed it most. This ended up leading to the loss of a cabin, as he never imagined the water would get so high. But Dario kicked things into high gear with sandbags in the parking lot when rising waters posed a serious threat to a sewage system and more than Arrowhead Lodge.
“I have two sewer grinding stations in my parking lot,” he said. “The sewers serve Puck’s Point Resort, and we should have closed it. If the sewer took water from the lake, it would not only shut us down, but it would shut down the whole point.
But despite the difficulties, Dario does his best to keep things in perspective.
“All is not gloomy. We have suffered a significant loss of business revenue and traffic, but we are still open and still doing our best. This is not the end of the world. There are resorts that are closed due to sewers, there are people with cabins under water.
Dario praised the Kabetogama community’s response throughout the crisis.
“I couldn’t be thankful enough for the number of people who care about Kabetogama and really did what they could to help,” he said.
He is also grateful to the people who have continued to support his station and others in their continued pursuits.
“Of course we had a few cancellations, but there were people who stayed with us and had a blast,” he said. “We received comments that some were thinking of canceling, but we are delighted that they came because it was such a good time. This area is operational and working well. You can get a curveball thrown with amenities that aren’t here, but people who come here have a wonderful time and they’re overwhelmed with what they can do here.

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