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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

County puts wheels in motion for disaster aid

David Colburn
Posted 6/27/24

REGIONAL- The St. Louis County Board held an emergency meeting in Virginia this past Thursday to approve a local emergency declaration in the wake of Tuesday’s torrential rain and subsequent …

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County puts wheels in motion for disaster aid


REGIONAL- The St. Louis County Board held an emergency meeting in Virginia this past Thursday to approve a local emergency declaration in the wake of Tuesday’s torrential rain and subsequent flooding. The declaration will open the door to state and federal financial assistance to pay for repairs to area infrastructure, including hundreds of roads that experienced damage from the June 18 storm, which dropped anywhere from three-to-nine inches of rain across the region.
In a press conference after the meeting, board chair Keith Nelson offered a preliminary estimate of the damage to the county’s infrastructure.
“I’m going to give you a rough idea, and I can tell you that my engineer will cringe when I do it,” Nelson said. “But having been through this a couple of different times, I think we’re somewhere north of $50 million. The damage I witnessed firsthand in Cook is probably several million dollars. That’s the back of the napkin, I guess, from my part, but some of the folks behind me here would tell you that I’ve been right in the past a couple of different times and just what I saw just in the 140 miles I put on yesterday up north I’m confident (in that number).”
That number will become more refined as county engineers fan out to inspect the 43 county roads that were closed in the wake of the flooding, 32 of them are in northern St. Louis County. The total estimate of damage will be far greater as local damage assessments are made.
“Every other organization out there… townships, cities will need to be doing that same thing of doing cost estimates and ultimately turning those into St. Louis County, so that we can determine what level of event this is,” County Public Works Director Jim Foldesi said.
“We had a significant rain and storm event on June 18, and I think the total implications are still unfolding,” County Administrator Kevin Gray told commissioners.
Foldesi said that signage and assessment of roads were the primary activities for public works personnel on Wednesday, although some road repairs had also been initiated.
“Typically, we focus on the dead-end situations where people can’t get out other than getting that repair done,” Foldesi said. “We focus on temporary repairs to get the roads back in operation and then worry about more permanent repairs later.”
While there is damage across the county, the majority of the impact is in the northern third of the county, Foldesi said.
Commissioner Paul McDonald talked about the flooding in Cook.
“Talking about major flooding with the Little Fork River in the city of Cook we have people up there,” he said. “Sheriff’s deputies and rescue squad people are all up in that area going door-to-door making sure elderly residents are in a good spot. The (National) Weather Service was up there yesterday talking about when they think the river is going to crest.”
Nelson emphasized during the press conference that despite the impact the storm has had, the county is “still open for business.”
“I think our resorts and everyone want that message out there – don’t change your plans,” Nelson said. “There are certainly some impacts. I’ve seen a closure list for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and some other things. But again, we’re doing everything we can to address that. This is the peak season coming for the resort industry and peak season coming for tourists. We’re open for business, we want people to come here. We are going to be dealing with all of the issues that are in front of us as quickly and as responsibly as we can. But we want people to continue to come north and visit us because it’s an integral part of our economy.”
In addition to the county positioning itself to access emergency funding from the state and federal government, it was reported that Gov. Tim Walz was working on a statewide disaster declaration that would make even more funds available for the response.