Second crest 21.75 feet, the fourth highest ever

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These are just two of the houses whose back yards are in the vicinity of North Prairie Street.

Several homes in Prairie du Chien were affected by the flood, including this one as viewed from the Highway 18 Bypass. (Photos by Ted Pennekamp)

Most of the trailer homes at Big River Campground had to be moved to higher ground.

This is part of South First Street near the intersection with West Brunson Friday.

This back and side yard, along with various structures, were inundated near North Prairie Street.

This is a view of North Prairie Street in Prairie du Chien Thursday.

Water covered a good portion of West Pine Street.

The lower level of the Winneshiek Bar building was surrounded but the bar was open for business this past weekend.

This view from Pike’s Peak State Park in Iowa shows how high the water was on the trees and, in the distance, the railroad bridge over the Wisconsin River.

 

By Ted Pennekamp

 

The Mississippi River crested at 21.75 feet on Friday, not major flood stage, but the fourth highest ever recorded at the McGregor gauge, surpassing the crest of 21.58 in 1969. The river has only gone above major flood stage of 22 feet twice (1965 and 2001).

On April 5, the river crested at 21.35 feet, the sixth highest ever recorded at McGregor. Over the next several days, it then dropped to about 18 feet before rising again recently due to heavy rain affecting major watersheds in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. A significant snowpack in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota also melted at the same time.

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, the flow rate at Lock and Dam 9 near Lynxville was 202,180 cubic feet per second on Friday, April 26. The flow at Lock and Dam 10 at Guttenberg, Iowa was a whopping 239,130 cfs.

The Motor Vessel Aaron F. Barrett, pushing 12 barges en route to St. Paul, Minn., locked through Lock and Dam 2, near Hastings, Minn., at around 7 a.m., April 24.

The Corps considers the first tow to arrive at Lock and Dam 2 as the unofficial start of the navigation season, because it means all of its locks are accessible to commercial and recreational vessels. However, this spring’s high flows continue to force lock closures in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

In fact, Patrick Loch of the Corps of Engineers said the lock at Lock and Dam 4 near Alma, Wis. was closed to all traffic shortly after the Aaron F. Barrett locked through. As of Sunday, April 28, Lock 4 was still closed to all vessels because the flow rate was higher than 160,000 cfs, the threshold for closing Lock 4. The flow rate at Lock 4 continues to drop slowly as the crest moseys on down the river.

The earliest date for an up-bound tow to reach Lock and Dam 2 was March 4, in 1983, 1984 and 2000. The average start date of the navigation season is March 22. The latest arrival date unrelated to flooding was April 11, 2018. Historic flooding in 2001 delayed the arrival of the first tow until May 11.

St. Feriole Island in Prairie du Chien remains mostly underwater and closed to vehicular traffic. The St. Feriole Island Ballpark, however, is above the water because it was built to the equivalent of a 26-foot river stage. A 100-year flood stage is 24.16 feet. The concession stand is at 30 feet.

Employees of the Villa Louis are continuing to be boated in to work.

Many houses and some businesses in Prairie du Chien and north of the city are being affected. The temporary dam at the Crooked Oar Bar and Marina on County K is working and has kept water out of the bar. Pumping operations have also worked decently to keep water away from the numerous trailers along the east side of County K. Water in some spots near the trailers looks to be about ankle deep. Most of the trailer homes at the Big River Campground had to be moved to higher ground. Numerous boats at Bob’s Marine along County K were moved to higher ground as well.

At several places on Prairie du Chien roads, branches and other debris were left behind by the crest. 

Brandon Jones, the director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, McGregor District, said neither the FWS nor any other agency has closed Pool 10 to boaters. However, due to high river levels, some boat landings are inaccessible.

The river is receding slowly, but how long the high water will linger, nobody knows.

The Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, said it is continuing to manage its reservoirs to reduce flood threats to communities in the Upper Midwest.

Corps officials are actively working on several river basins to minimize flood impacts caused by the winter snowmelt and spring rain. With additional rain in the forecast, it is too early to estimate when river and reservoir levels might return to normal.

Reservoir levels in the Mississippi River Headwaters in Minnesota remain high. The Corps is managing its Leech Lake, near Federal Dam, and Lake Winnibigoshish, near Deer River, reservoirs at minimum outflows to reduce downstream flood threats. In addition to the Leech and Winnibigoshish reservoirs, Pokegama Lake, near Grand Rapids, is being managed in consideration to the river stage at Aitkin, and in accordance with the water control manual. Both Pokegama Lake and Big Sandy Lake, near McGregor, Minn., are also above normal summer levels. Corps officials anticipate a slow recession toward normal summer operating levels. 

The Mississippi River south of the Twin Cities is also high. The Corps is operating the river in an open river state. This means that the dam gates are removed from the water. Corps officials do this when there is enough water to maintain the congressionally mandated 9-foot navigation channel. Patrick Loch of the Corps of Engineers said the threshold for having all gates wide open at Lock and Dam 9 is 63,000 cubic feet per second. The threshold at Lock and Dam 10 is 73,000 cfs. The lock and dam system is not designed to reduce flood risk. It was developed exclusively to maintain the needed water depths for navigation, the Corps said.

The St. Paul District operates 12 locks and dams to support navigation from Minneapolis to Guttenberg, Iowa. Keeping this system open is vital to the nation’s economy. The commercial navigation industry estimates an annual average savings of nearly $270 million by using the inland waterways instead of overland shipping methods.

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