Duluth Mayor on Flood Repairs: 'We Have A Good Start'

Posted at: 06/19/2013 5:23 PM | Updated at: 06/20/2013 11:54 AM

One year ago one of the worst floods the Northland has ever seen all began. Heavy rain flooded homes and tore up streets. Once the rain finally stopped, the City of Duluth got its first glimpse at how long it would take to put the city back together again.

In a news conference Wednesday afternoon Mayor Don Ness recounted the night, saying it all started with one insignificant drop of rain. "Maybe it landed on a sidewalk. Maybe it landed on a leaf or on a person's shoulder," he said.

In a matter of hours the water was punching manhole covers up from the streets, bringing a piece of a hill down on to the road below, and forcing hundreds of residents out of their homes.

In the Fond du Lac neighborhood many returned days later to find their belongings destroyed.

Since then, Keith Hamre, the director of Planning and Construction Services, said the city has assessed about 900 properties and issued 188 permits for flood-related repairs.

Emergency repairs to infrastructure, like roads, culverts and bridges are done, but Duluth Public Works Director Jim Benning said 2/3 of the permanent road repairs haven't been done yet. He said the work will stretch into 2014.

Chief Administrative Officer Dave Montgomery estimated the damage to Duluth’s infrastructure at $39 million. He said the city has spent $11.1 million on flood repairs so far.

According to Montgomery, FEMA has agreed to give Duluth $23.2 million, and $16.3 million in payments are still pending.

Commenting on work that has already been done, Mayor Ness said "I think we have a good start. But if we do not finish this job and finish it well over the next year-plus then we will not have succeeded as a community."

Mayor Ness said it’s not time to celebrate yet.

"We still have too much work ahead of us and too many people still struggling with the after effects,” he said.

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