Rising water closes part of riverfront

St. Croix River expected to crest just below flood stage this weekend

By ERIK SANDIN -Stillwater Gazette

The rising St. Croix River led Stillwater officials to close part of the downtown riverfront to protect both the public and the city’s Nelson Street lift station.

Orange plastic fencing and temporary signs reading, "No One Beyong This Point, Police Order" were up on the river shoreline south of the Lift Bridge this morning.

Early morning traffic was crossing the Lift Bridge and a city official said there is no indication that the rising water would lead the state Department of Transportation to close the Lift Bridge to traffic.

A National Weather Service hydrologist said backwash from the Mississippi River is the reason the St. Croix is rising. May rainfall in the Mississippi watershed led the NWS to issue a flood warning this week for Washington and Dakota counties in Minnesota and Pierce County in Wisconsin.

That warning, however, covers the area at Lock and Dam No. 2 in Hastings, were the Mississippi River is expected to crest above the 15-flood stage this weekend. The St. Croix is predicted to crest at slightly more than 86 feet this weekend, one foot below the 87-foot flood stage.

As the St. Croix continues to rise, city officials took steps to protect parts of the downtown riverfront.

"We’ve got the lift station on Nelson Street and we’ve working on that. We’ve got that taken care of," said Tim Moore with Stillwater Public Works.

The remainder of the riverfront area south of the Lift Bridge was closed as a safety precaution, Moore added.

"There’s just some hidden dangers. We want to keep people out of there for their safety," he said.

By this morning, the St. Croix River covered part of the riverfront area, nearly submerging a sign warning that the path was closed and covering up a bench area and partially submerging the bases of streetlights.

In Bayport, City Manager Mitch Berg said he expects few problems from the rising river.

"Not really. Historically, there are some homes where they could start seeing winter in their garages and basements,"he said.

Berg said as of this morning, no areas in the city have been closed due to high water.

"The majority of our infrastructure is above the flood stage," he said. "We are taking a wait-and-see approach."

One thing Berg did when the St. Croix started rising is send CodeRed emergency messages to residents in flood-prone areas alerting them to the high water.

"I think it was Tuesday I did initiate a CodeRed to those residents on the point," he said.

NWS officials expect the Mississippi River to crest Sunday afternoon at near 16 feet at Lock and Dam No. 2.

"This crest compares to a previous crest of 17.8 feet on April 13, 2011," said the NWS in a statement.

But with a forecast calling for weekend showers and thunderstorms, NWS forecasters warn that river levels could rise higher.

"The river forecast is based on precipitation over the past week," said the NWS statement. "Levels are expected to crest below flood stage. Any additional rainfall may cause river levels to rise higher than predicted."