Whitewater State Park receives flood funding

By Joe
Albert
Associate Editor

St. Paul – Whitewater State Park received heavy damage during
flooding that ravaged parts of the southeast last month, and money
allocated in a bill passed during last week’s special legislative
session will help to repair it.

The bill included $6.7 million for the DNR. Of that, $4.2
million is earmarked to ‘rehabilitate and replace state facilities
and restore natural resources;’ much of that will be spent at
Whitewater. Damage also was done to state trails and fish
hatcheries.

Another $2 million is for flood hazard mitigation grants, and
$500,000 is for work such as the removal of debris.

The 2,700-acre park remains closed to the public, but state
officials hope to open it to day use sometime this fall, and to
activities such as camping by Memorial Day next year. The deer hunt
that’s scheduled for Nov. 17-19 will take place.

Once they were able to assess the damage, state park officials
were relieved to find that most of the damage was confined to
Whitewater, where much of the repair will involve damaged and
destroyed bridges and roads.

Additionally, some buildings had water damage, though the park’s
visitor center wasn’t damaged, said Larry Peterson, development and
real estate manager for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division.
Parking lots and sidewalks also will need work. Depending on
Federal Emergency Management Agency assessments, the state could be
reimbursed for up to 75 percent of the infrastructure work (not
building work), Peterson said.

Agency officials were to meet with FEMA officials this week,
but, ‘right now, (work at the park is) pretty much in a cleanup
phase,’ Peterson said.

There’s some concern about the park’s natural resources, but
while some rare and native plant species were affected, ‘nothing
was really wiped out,’ said Ed Quinn, resource management program
coordinator for the Parks and Recreation Division.

Streams in the area were scoured, he said, and there is a lack
of macroinvertebrates in them. Timber rattlesnakes were affected,
and trout numbers were reduced, but a recent survey showed the
presence of multiple year-classes of fish, Quinn said.

‘The upland areas are pretty much all unchanged, but then when
you look at the valley bottom itself, there are places where the
road has just fallen in,’ he said. ‘We’ve got trails that have been
scoured right out, and portions fell into the river.

‘The Whitewater River, where it goes between our two campgrounds
(Gooseberry Glen and Cedar Hill), shifted over 75 to 100 feet.’

While events like the August floods formed the Whitewater
valley, officials are concerned this time about the spread of
invasive species, whether it be via the flood itself, or machinery
that will be needed to repair the park, Quinn said.

‘We’re really trying to ensure that invasive plants don’t get
introduced during that,’ he said.

Other items

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources also received
money in the bill, totalling $4 million.

Of that, $3 million will go to the state Cost-Share Program to
restore and repair existing conservation projects on private land.
The other $1 million will be used to purchase RIM easements where
they can provide flood-control benefits, according to BWSR.

Much of the 42-mile Root River State Trail is again open for
use. A 400-foot stretch of the trail between Lanesboro and Whalen
remains closed.

Categories: Hunting News

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