Shakopee Valley News:
The Mill Pond dock near Shakopee went under water, and rides at Valleyfair looked like they were on islands from the air as Minnesota River floodwater crept into low-lying areas in recent weeks.
Some of the rollercoasters looked like they could become more like the log ride at the Mall of America, with water covering the tracks in low areas.
Not to worry, Valleyfair spokeswoman Kelsey Bailey said.
“As far as flooding, it is nothing we haven’t experienced before,” she said.
The three rides typically affected by flooding are Renegade, Excalibur and Thunder Canyon, with the low-lying, catch-your-breath portions going under water at times. But Bailey said the flooding isn’t expected to affect the rides’ opening in May. They were built knowing they are in a floodway and are designed to withstand water, she said.
Railroad tracks raised
The Minnesota River crested in Savage last Saturday, and was expected to slowly recede throughout the week, according to observations by the National Weather Service.
The river reached 712.60 feet on Saturday and remained around the same level on Monday morning. The river was expected to drop from major flood stage back into moderate flood stage by mid-week.
The crest is occurring around two feet lower than forecasted earlier last month.
Savage Public Works Director Greg Boatman said a road closure will remain in effect on the Highway 101 Frontage Road from Zinran Avenue to Wyoming Avenue in Savage for a couple of weeks — even after the water recedes — to allow time for the structures underneath the pavement to dry.
Union Pacific Railroad continued to operate trains in the area despite the high water surrounding the tracks. The tracks were raised from Valley Park Depot in Shakopee to Western Avenue in St. Paul as a precaution, according to Union Pacific spokeswoman Kristen South.
Raising the track involves laying a new layer of heavy gravel, called ballast, which is used to form railroad beds. Unrelated to flood precautions, removing and replacing ballast is how tracks remain stable, South said. The process is called undercutting.
During undercutting, equipment raises the train tracks and excavates the ballast underneath. The ballast then runs through a filter that tosses out small pieces of rock and recycles the good rock. Track equipment follows the machine and spreads the ballast — leveling the track bed.
The highest recorded river crest in Savage occurred at 719 feet in 1965.
According to the NWS, flood waters would need to reach 715 feet to begin causing flooding on Highway 101 near Highway 13 and the northbound lanes of Interstate 35W.
While neighboring cities watch floodwaters creep up from the Minnesota River and its tributaries, Prior Lake officials remain cautiously hopeful that the chance of potential flooding of the area’s lakes is decreasing.
A March 25 Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District’s news bulletin reminded residents that “lake systems are not as flashy as river system, rising and falling more slowly.” The slower nature of lake water gives district and city employees more time to prepare for any flooding.
Water levels on Spring Lake are probably the greatest cause of tempered optimism. While ice flows around the lake’s gauges have disrupted online readings, employees at the watershed district say it appears that the lake’s water levels peaked on March 22.
“It appears that Spring Lake is dropping, which of course is a good thing because it just goes into Prior Lake,” said Diane Lynch, Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District Administrator. “The water levels are going to hit Prior and then they’re going to go down because Spring has already peaked.”
Lynch said it generally takes five to eight days for water to move from Spring Lake to Prior Lake.
As of March 28, the water level on Prior Lake was 903.88 feet above sea level. Water levels have risen steadily since March 10, as snow melt and rain emptied into the lakes. This measure is just barely below the lake’s Ordinary High Water elevation of 903.9, but still feet below the lake’s highest recorded level. That mark came from waters at 906.17 in June 2014.
The city has begun enacting its flood response policy, established in the aftermath of historic flooding in the summer of 2014. Following that policy, the city and watershed district began selling sandbags for 25 cents at the Prior Lake Maintenance Center on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.