Moose Lake Still Faces Uphill Battle on Road to Flood Recovery

By KBJR News 1

June 19, 2013 Updated Jun 19, 2013 at 6:21 PM CDT

Moose Lake, MN (NNCNOW.com) - In Moose Lake's public infrastructure alone there were 51 damaged locations, 14 of which are either completed or near completion. 27 are ready to start work, and 10 are on hold.

Those 10, according to city officials, will stay on hold until an agreement can be reached between Moose Lake and FEMA.

When it comes to ground zero for Moose Lake flood damage, all eyes turn to the city campgrounds, school, and little league fields. Seven feet of water destroyed the campground shower building, concrete dugouts, washed out the infield and pushed the fences apart—shutting down the park for the entire summer, and making it a top priority for the city's rebuilding process.

"[It's] well–used during the summer, [it's] full quite a bit, and we lost all the revenue from that last year," said Moose Lake Flood Administrator Tom Paull, as he stood alongside the infield.

...$80,000 in tourism revenue, to be exact. The campground is now open, sporting new electric wiring and a water heater. But, being in the flood plain with no insurance, the city fronted the bill.

Paull says it's tough to assess the relationship between the city and FEMA, because determining the scope of work on FEMA's end following the flood wasn't complete until December, "...which at that point we had 34 road projects to do. You can't do road projects in the winter," said Paull.

Along with that, any project over $66,400 needs to be fronted by the city, "...and you have to go out and fix it before you get reimbursed," said Paull.

"When it was handled regionally or at the state there were delays, and that was one of the negatives. The good news is, when it was locally managed, we had very good success," said City Administrator Pat Oman as he and Paull discussed this year's recovery challenges.

Oman says one program that has helped residents recover is the DNR flood reduction grant, which buys out flood damaged homes with a city–set minimum of 95% damage at pre–flood value. 16 are eligible, and five have done it. The property then goes to the city indefinitely, adding another property to the 75% of the city that is non–taxable.

"It's hard for the city of Moose Lake, but at least we're going to be able to help some of these residents that lost everything," said Paull.

Looking ahead, the city is also moving along with a 5–year land use plan that will not only incorporate development in the right areas, "...but also identifying areas that may be more prone to floods and seeing how we can mitigate those," said Oman.

...making hazard mitigation within the city, and surrounding townships, key in the rehabilitation process.

Paull and Oman say the campgrounds have been a very popular tourist spot this year so far,

As for the little league fields, they hope the first pitch will be thrown this Friday.

- Posted to the Web by Billy Wagness