Carlton County leaders report on recovery effortsNow that floodwaters are receding, Carlton County officials are turning their attention from emergency services to the business of recovery — and tourist control.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Now that floodwaters are receding, Carlton County officials are turning their attention from emergency services to the business of recovery — and tourist control.
“We’ve been fortunate that no one was seriously hurt or died,” Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande said. “But we are encouraging the public to resist the temptation to go into areas where they could fall into water or otherwise be injured.”
He mentioned Spafford and Voyageur’s parks in Cloquet, as well as Jay Cooke State Park.
Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake also pointed to Jay Cooke as a potential problem area.
“Obviously, people are curious,” she said. “They want to get down and see the park and the bridge (where the road collapsed just below the Thomson dam). There’s absolutely no vehicular traffic or foot traffic. Conditions are so unsafe; the water is so high and running so fast.”
“The city of Thomson is currently accessible only by boat,” one Thomson resident told officials.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken and U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, meeting Friday afternoon with Carlton County officials and residents, were told that Thomson town was accessible only by boat.
Representatives from the county, townships and cities took turns giving short reports on the damages and challenges facing their communities:
“We had 33 roads closed Wednesday, then 44 on Thursday,” Olson said. “At one point the only east-west road that was open was Highway 210.”
“About half of those people have been able to go home,” Lake said. “Others are still displaced, staying with family or friends.”
Lake said that both the cities of Carlton and Barnum had “pretty much been under water” during the peak of the flooding.
“And the city of Moose Lake has been hugely impacted,” she added. “The bridge is still closed, which pretty much splits the town in half.”
Areas near Wright and Cromwell are also dealing with road closures and infrastructure issues, she said.
“Our water and sewer lines were attached to that bridge,” said Thomson’s Heather MacDonald, referring to the washed-out roadway next to the Highway 210 bridge that now features a thundering river. “So even when the floodwaters recede, we still have no water and sewer.”
She expressed concerns that the residents wouldn’t be allowed to return home without running water and sewer, and wondered if those things could be provided on a temporary basis.
“Two of those roads are totally out, including one with a gully that’s probably 45 feet deep and 120 feet across,” she said, referring to Reservation Road. “But the wells are OK, and we were able to use the Tribal Center as a shelter.
“The biggest thing for us is the roads.”
However, she said has concerns about the city’s infrastructure, particularly the sewer system.
“We never realized they would flood,” he said. “USG employs 400 people, Sappi more than 700. Neither will be running for a while. We won’t know what the damage is for some time.”
Franken told the local officials that he was certain that Carlton County would meet the threshold for federal disaster relief, but stressed more than once that public officials, businesses and homeowners need to thoroughly photograph and document damages.
“Document, document, document,” he said.