Recent rain has river on rise

No-wake restrictions on St. Croix, 2 Lake Elmo lakes

Barges loaded with cranes and other construction equipment were anchored on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River recently as part of bridge pier foundation work. Crews with Edward Kraemer and Sons have moved pier foundation work to the Wisconsin side of the river this week due to a rise in the river level. (Gazette staff photo by Erik Sandin)

Barges loaded with cranes and other construction equipment were anchored on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River recently as part of bridge pier foundation work. Crews with Edward Kraemer and Sons have moved pier foundation work to the Wisconsin side of the river this week due to a rise in the river level. (Gazette staff photo by Erik Sandin)

First came the rains. Now comes rising waters on the St. Croix River and some area lakes.

Heavy rain in the watersheds of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers has the St. Croix River rising to a forecasted crest slightly above 84 feet early next week. That expected crest is about three feet below the St. Croix’s 87-foot flood stage.

The St. Croix was at 83.67 feet at 7 a.m. today, according to the National Weather Service. Because the river reached the 83-foot mark, the state Department of Natural Resources put no-wake restrictions in effect between Taylors Falls and Prescott, Wis.
DNR spokesman Harlan Hiemstra said the no-wake rule remains on the river until the water level drops below the 83-foot mark. He also urged boaters on the river to use caution.

“Boat and water safety officials at the DNR also point out that high-running rivers often contain debris floating just below the surface that can pose serious hazards,” he said. “Boaters should slow down and exercise extra caution in such conditions.”

Meanwhile, Lake Elmo city officials imposed no-wake restrictions through July 1 on Olson Lake and Lake DeMontreville due to unusually high water levels in both lakes.

“We have exceeded the currently valid (pre 2011) ordinary high water mark and water has been observed traveling far onto shore causing erosion and possibly pulling nutrients/sediments into the lake, affecting lake quality,” said city spokeswoman Alyssa MacLeod. “This is to be a strictly enforced no-wake order. Boaters ignoring the order will be subject to fines.”

The rising river has affected work on St. Croix Crossing bridge pier foundations. Crews have moved from working on pier foundations near the Minnesota shoreline to foundations on the Wisconsin side.

Diane Cooper, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, said recent heavy rains are causing the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers to rise, with the backwash entering the St. Croix.

“That’s pretty much going to be the driver,” said said about the rising Mississippi River.

Cooper said the NWS forecasts an 84.2-foot crest on the St. Croix River around July 2. That forecast crest is one foot above the 83-foot no-wake restriction level.
Cooper added that more rain is forecast next week for central Minnesota, including the St. Croix Valley.

“We have some chances (for rain) later this weekend, mainly on Saturday,” she said. “We’re watching for the middle of next week.”

Periods of heavy rain fell on the Valley early Wednesday afternoon, with reports of minor street flooding in parts of western Wisconsin. But Cooper said any high water issues in area creeks and streams would be short-lived since the system quickly moved out of the Valley.

St. Croix Crossing project officials said the rising St. Croix forced workers with pier foundation contractor Edward Kraemer and Sons to stop work on a pier site near the Minnesota side of the river and move to pier sites closer to the Wisconsin shoreline.

“They moved that crew to work on pier 12,” said Jessica Wiens of the state Department of Transportation.

She added that a test site used by Kraemer and Sons also has been affected by the high water.

“There is an area near the river where they did tests. That area is under water,” she said.

Wiens said also said the area where crews are working in the river is closed to boaters and no-wake restrictions will be enforced.

She added that project officials will watch the St. Croix River level the next several days and make further adjustments if necessary.

“It is definitely something we will take into consideration,” she said.

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com

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