Students Learn the Good and Bad of the 2012 Flood

By KBJR News 1

March 21, 2013 Updated Mar 22, 2013 at 9:34 AM CST

Cloquet, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- As the snow begins to melt, experts continue to learn about the effects last year's flood has had on the St. Louis River and Lower Lake Superior Basin.

The impact of the flood was the focus of the 11th annual St. Louis River-River Watch Congress.

From the ecosystem to infrastructure, it's also proving to be a significant and inspiring learning tool for students.

Students from 14 Northland schools taking part in the River Watch Program study watershed sites in the Spring and Fall.

"When they went out in October, some of these schools couldn't even get back to their sampling sites,” Courtney Kowalczak, River Watch Director said. “It was so changed. The devastation was real and I think it was a very teachable, dramatic moment."

Through a series of workshops and hands on activities, students are learning about stormwater basics and the toll a flood takes on infrastructure and the environment.

"It's a lot of erosion,” Cristina Villella, MN GreenCorps Stormwater Outreach and Education Coordinator said. “You can see that really the natural landscape has changed; even so much that some of the streams really changed the actual direction and the path they take.”

When thinking of a flood, experts say many jump to the devastations it brings.

But a floods effects are not all bad.

"Some of the sediments that came in below the Fond du Lac dam have acted to regenerate some of the barrier bars around some of the islands and recharged some of the wetland areas,” John Lindgren, of the MN DNR said.

While monitoring invasive species and mud slides, officials at Jay Cook State Park say the natural disaster has provided a unique opportunity to upgrade the park.

"How many times do you get to destroy a 100 year old park and re-think how to build it?” Kris Hiller, Jay Cook State Park Interpretive Naturalist said. “As we are going through the rebuilding process we are actually re-thinking how to do things."

Students in the River Watch program also had the chance to present projects they worked on while studying the St. Louis River to their peers.

Jennifer Walch
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